Three people from the NHS England Personalised Care group recently joined the Peer Leadership Academy and wanted to share their experiences.

Mary Newsome is an Assistant Project Officer for Integrated Personal Commissioning and Personal Health Budgets at NHS England. She has previously worked in a number of Government organisations which include, DWP, Department of Health, NHS Employers. She has also had her own fabric business, help set up two charities for women and families affected by Post-Natal Depression. She has three grown up sons and lives on the South Pennines.

In September the next Peer Leadership Academy will begin, I was lucky enough to join the last session. You may think that the commitment of six days over three months is a big commitment, especially if you have a busy diary and demanding deadlines. However, I would ask you to think again and take a look at what joining the Academy can do for not just for your personal development but also how you approach your job.

The Peer Leadership Academy isn’t a training programme per se; it’s a personal development programme; it’s also about developing close relationships with the Peer Leaders, some of who will be joining the co-production group, sitting on the IPC Programme Board and working with you as colleagues and collaborators. It’s a chance to learn more about parts of the IPC/PHB programme that you may not be involved in very much; importantly it’s a chance to hear from people about how it’s worked for them. Believe me when I say that listening to other people’s personal journey’s will change your perspectives on life and work; you hear about courage, resilience, great determination, unfairness, humility, grace, humour and creativity.

It made me think about the times I had been in similar situations to some of the people in the room, but for me the outcome had been very different, the car crash where the car was written off – I walked away, a serious illness that luckily I recovered from – random acts of violence that touched members of my family; pregnancy and birth. For some people the outcomes from similar situations was life changing in major ways, and yet they were determined not to let it stop them living as full and productive as life as possible. That’s when you really start to understand the value of the work we do, and why it’s important that the programmes are rolled out at scale to the people who need them. I knew very little about autism before I joined the Academy; I thought I knew more than I did. I couldn’t have described how a PHB could benefit someone with the condition; and how it would change their lives and make things so much better. I can now! I know about how you manage a 24/7 rota of carers, running two business from a wheelchair and having a scuba diving holiday!

On a personal level you will have the opportunity to do an in depth Myers Briggs assessment; I’ve done two before and not been impressed. This time however, it was done with a lot of support from the assessor, you had time to discuss the outcomes with the assessor and you applied it to situations and your life. I can say that I no longer feel the need to apologise for being an introvert and needing to be quiet, take time out from noisy crowded situations. It means that I can also acknowledge the more outgoing side of me because I have given myself time to be quiet and reflective.

I hope that after reading this you will see the value in joining the Academy, making the next Peer Leaders your colleagues and collaborators and benefiting from the professional and personal development opportunity it offers.