Annette Benny

Current employer: NHS Northern Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group

Current job title: Managing Director of Governance

Current location: Plymouth; Exeter

“Don’t underestimate the impact you can have on a person if you make sure that you are truly there for them… They are more than just a pair of feet.”

Tell us about your career path since graduation.

I joined the NHS in 1988 and practised for five years in Exeter and Plymouth. I was then seconded into a Capital Projects Manager role, where I project managed areas from business cases through to commissioning the units for a three building project for Plymouth Community Services. At the same time, I received a bursary from the NHS Women’s Unit which enabled me to do my masters in Management and Leadership in Health and Social Care.

In 1996 I became the directorate support manager for general surgery at Derriford Hospital. I then moved to Bath in early 1998 to take a role of service development manager in Capitec, part of the NHS Estates, where I provided consultancy expertise to a number of NHS organisations (including the national blood service and the Gloucestershire Royal Hospital and Salisbury District Hospital). In late 1999 I moved to the Department of Health regional office in Bristol where I was a performance manager covering the NHS organisations in Avon, Gloucestershire, and Wiltshire.

I was at the newly created South West Peninsula Strategic Heath Authority in 2002, where I led the Choice and Choose and Book implementation as a key part of my role. Then, in 2006, I joined Torbay Care Trust (a provider of both health and social care services) as an Assistant Director; initially responsible for capital projects and customer services and then moved to become assistant director of commissioning. And finally, in 2012 I was seconded to programme manage at the set-up of NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group as part of the latest health reforms. It is the largest of its kind in England and we serve 900,000 people.

Since then, I have succeeded in becoming the managing director of governance and the chief information officer for the CCG. My current portfolio includes governance, human resources, organisational development, and information technology. I am currently doing a postgraduate certificate in organisational development.

What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?

I have always taken on challenging projects/roles for which others might consider me brave, but the first of these was making the transition out of my clinical role into my first non-clinical role. I missed the contact with patients, and I soon realised the impact on patients my work could have. I had to shift from the sense of having achieved something every day, by treating patients and seeing them feel/get better, to a much longer timeframe for success. I also had to work out that whilst my technical knowledge was scarce in some areas, I had lots of transferable skills that enabled me to get the job done.

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

I have just worked with Plymouth City Council to set up a shared information technology company called Delt Dhared Services Ltd. This is about keeping skilled jobs at a local level. We know that one of the key determinants for health and wellbeing is having a good job, so by the CCG and city council working together we will have an impact on our local people rather than losing jobs from the region. It has taken a huge amount of effort and is a true reflection of how partnerships can work, which has been both good and challenging! I am really proud of how the staff have taken on the challenge and are delivering something faster, better, and cheaper than before.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?

Be clear about what you really want: what is it that really gives you energy? You spend a lot of time at work, so get out and speak to people. Always be prepared to do more than your job description or pay grade. You have to work for whatever you want. Don’t expect it all to be handed to you: you are not entitled!

How did studying at Plymouth help you?

The School of Health Professionals had a brilliant reputation and it wasn’t too big. This meant that we had a great relationship with lecturers and our head of school still made time for me to talk about careers advice, even four years after I had left. For me, it was also local which meant that I could stay at home.

Do you have anything you would like to share from your time working in a clinic?

Don’t underestimate the impact you can have on a person if you make sure that you are truly there for them. Not many clinicians get that amount of time with a patient, so instead you may have a role in supporting them to access wider help. They are more than just a pair of feet.

Would you recommend undertaking a course with the University, and why?

Yes, I would recommend the University because there are many great courses; my husband completed his engineering degree there as a mature student.

Inspired by this story?

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