My NHS story - Jonathan Higman

People have shared their wonderful memories of the NHS over the last 75 years to help celebrate the NHS's 75th Birthday

Jonathan shares their NHS memories

Jonathan Higman, Chief Executive at NHS Somerset, shares his NHS story.

My Mum was a District Nurse, working out of a small GP practice in rural Devon, and I have early memories of wading through knee deep snow on her rounds or of knocks on the door at 3 o’clock in the morning from neighbours who “didn’t want to disturb the Doctor”! I guess it was these early experiences that helped me to recognise the vital importance of a service that cared for everyone, no matter where you live or who you are.

Years later, I graduated from University with a degree in Economics and Geography having focussed on the geography of health. I decided to apply for the NHS Management Training scheme but wasn’t successful in getting a place. Indeed, I was unsuccessful in two applications and after pursuing further study, a brief time as a geography teacher and a year travelling, I decided that there must be another way of getting into a career in the NHS.

After trawling the papers I was successful in an application to join Croydon Health Authority as a Service Analyst in the Acute Commissioning Department so we moved from Devon to Croydon. Following a bit more moving around the country we settled in Buckinghamshire, where I worked for the Health Authority as a Contracts Manager, in their Commissioning Department and as part of the team looking at the reconfiguration of services between Stoke Mandeville and Wycombe General Hospital.

My real ambition, however, was to land an operational role in a hospital and, in 2002, I was successful in being appointed as the General Manager for Medicine and Child Health at Yeovil District Hospital (YDH) and I spent the next 7 years there working to improve different services until 2007 when an opportunity came up at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital as Divisional Manager for Operations.

I had a great time and thought that this would provide a catalyst for a move back to my home area but by that time we had realised what a great place Somerset was to live, work and bring up a young family. I was successful in being appointed as Director of Operations and then Director of Strategy/Deputy CEO back at YDH and was involved in the Symphony Vanguard Programme which provided a number of opportunities to learn from others, both in the UK and overseas.

In 2017, I became Chief Executive of YDH.

And here I am now as Chief Executive of NHS Somerset. To some degree this feels like the point at which the experiences I’ve had so far come together and I genuinely feel that the next chapter here at NHS Somerset is the greatest opportunity so far. An opportunity to affect a change that could have a significant positive impact on the health and wellbeing of the people we serve for years to come.

I would describe my career to date as being one where I have taken opportunities as they present themselves and, through this, I’ve been fortunate to work with some amazing colleagues who have shaped me both personally and professionally. The NHS is built on it’s people. Every one of us plays a vital role in ensuring we continue to support people to stay healthy and well and that we are there for them at the times they need us. It’s not said often enough but thank you to everyone who plays a part in this.

Jonathan Higman

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