“The staff make it a special place to work” – interview with Stephen Sambrook, Governor
As well as being a volunteer at St George’s, Stephen Sambrook is one of our public governors, representing the rest of England.
Stephen told us a bit more about his history with St George’s, his role as a governor and what he thinks is special about our staff.
What is your connection with the Trust?
People form emotional attachments to hospitals. Until 2009, for me St George’s was merely a collection of buildings that I could see when on the bus to Streatham. Then I fell down the stairs at home and was rushed by ambulance to hospital – not my local one but St George’s.
Two days later a scan revealed I had a fractured skull and bleed on the brain. So, literally, my connection was to various bits of equipment. Hospital buildings hold stories of generations of doctors, nurses and patients, so there is a touch of mysticism along with the joy, despair and sadness.
I was admitted for observation and so, after tiring of counting the perforations in the ceiling tiles, started to make observations myself, noticing there were some things which needed improvement. This helped convince me that I should do something useful.
Why did you want to become a governor?
My claim that among the papers I had to sign on discharge was a commitment to volunteer always gets a reaction. Working alongside paid staff on various wards and units reinforced my view that things were not as good as they should be, particularly for the staff. I decided to stand for election as a Governor. The rest is the present.
Do you find being a volunteer is useful for your governor role?
As a volunteer, I have worked on a Senior Health ward, stroke wards and on the Cancer Day Unit during which I have met hundreds of patients, their family members and members of staff. My current role (in normal times) is to help people find their way around.
Asking for help is a strength not a weakness. People feel able to make – mainly positive – comments but sometimes they just need someone to listen. Talking to a volunteer perhaps helps them to be less reticent about expressing their views.
What do you enjoy most about being a governor?
My spontaneous reaction to this question is to focus on the power and the slap-up meals we get as governors, but that really is in the history books! When the hospital was founded it was run by a board of Governors. The 21st century incarnation is that Governors are like volunteers as the role is now unpaid.
Nevertheless, the modern Governor can be an influencer – we all come from a variety of backgrounds and there is often healthy debate on a variety of topics concerning the Trust.
Is there something you think is special about St George’s, or its staff?
I don’t know whether ‘unique’ would be justified to describe St George’s but it is certainly ‘different.’ Is this due to the architectural importance of the buildings? Is it due to the layout of the buildings described by some visitors as obviously based on Hampton Court maze?
No, there is a lightness of touch in the hospital characterised by staff who are highly professional yet not afraid to have fun at appropriate moments. The staff make it a special place to work and it is frustrating in the coronavirus period not be present at the Trust either as a Volunteer or Governor. But I’ll be back.