I Went to Find a Dragon, But Instead Found Inspiration.

Richard Gurney

25th June 2018

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How would you describe a dragon? A scary, fire-breathing monster? A beautiful, majestic creature? Friend or foe? All of these could be true depending on your perspective and mood; we will come back to dragons later.


I had the pleasure of attending the Chief Allied Health Professionals Conference this week in London. I love a trip to London, even one that starts at 5.15 in the morning. I also love spending time with my fellow Allied Health Professionals (AHP’s) who, despite being from many different professions, always come together with a unique energy and excitement. So I had high hopes for this trip. Let me tell you, I was not disappointed. Despite getting lost on the (apparent) 270 metre walk from the train station to the hotel  (thank you google maps) and arriving late and having to sit on the floor at the back, I was instantly captivated by the Chief AHP Officer for England herself, talking about dragons. Now, having arrived late, I had no context at all for the dragon references and wondered if I’d wandered into a Game of Thrones convention by accident, but either way I decided I would go along with it.


Here are my favourite 10 moments:

1. I think it’s hard to open a conference because you need to get people excited without stealing thunder from the other speakers; you are the support act before the main gig. Suzanne Rastrick is a master of the art. She led the crowd through a list of successes for AHP’s across England over the last year, and numerous exciting projects to come over the next year.

2. Andy Rhodes, Chief Constable of Lancashire Constabulary and national lead for wellbeing and engagement, talking about the link between staff wellbeing and discretionary effort. Over my 11 years as an Occupational Therapist, I’ve seen colleagues go above and beyond again and again to improve the lives of patients and service users at the expense of their personal time and stress levels. As a leader it seems the least we can do is improve the teams wellbeing overall, but especially in times of organisational or cultural change. Andy also talked about the difference between old power and new power, and how colleagues entering the workforce now have different expectations to the ones my generation had, and vastly different ones to the generation before. It really made me reflect on my leadership style and how I interact with colleagues.

3. Professor Caroline MacEwan , confirming that there is nothing wrong with a good MDT argument if you all have the patients best interest at heart and respect each other as professionals.

4. Watching Dr Joanne Fillingham make a breakout session called “Sustainability and Transformation plans” interesting, informative, funny and inspirational. I went to the session because I thought it was important for my role rather than it being fun but it was captivating! Listening to examples of people who saw a problem, had an idea of how to fix it and then did just that was brilliant! I loved the quote “I kept waiting for them to fix the problem, until I realised that I was them.” All the way home on the train I kept thinking, “am I them? “ I think I might just be one of them.

5. Lunch – always one of my favourite times! Who knew that curry and Haddock went together so well?

6. Digital, digital, digital. I had to go to the digital session and I’m glad I did! Two interesting talks from Sarah Judge about one of the GDE programs and Liz Ashall Payne about Orcha. Two AHP’s who have developed into digital roles and excelled. As I set out on my digital journey it’s great to hear from people further down the line.

7. Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, saying “The good news is everybody in the country loves you!” Enough said!

8. Sir David Nicholson, Former Chief Executive of NHS England, saying “Everybody in the world loves you!” Enough said again! These Chief executives really know how to make you feel good!!   

9. Having an NHS 70 tea party and bumping into someone who trained at the same university I did, and then finding out that the other people at my table were from that university and one of them had been my distance learning course leader! It’s a small world! It’s important to remember that the events are not only great forums for learning, but for connecting and reconnecting with colleagues too. There is no greater aide to reflection than a cup of coffee and a piece of cake with a peer.

10. Dr Justin Varney, from Public Health England, talking about spaceships and Zumba! If it’s hard to open a conference it is harder still to be last on, and Justin’s talk was perfect! Funny, interesting and informative. For instance did you know how much health data your phone knows about you, and what a rich source that would be if your doctor could access it but would they think to or know how to?  Taking the same thought further, who would you be comfortable sharing the data with? These are all problems we will have to solve over the coming years.


So what did I come away with? Well, a greater appreciation for my amazing AHP colleagues across the country but more than that, a real feeling that we can do something incredible! Whether it’s in my team, my trust, regionally or nationally, there is more to do, and I’ve been inspired to go out and do it!

Oh yes, and why the talk of dragons? Well the final words from the Chief Allied Health Professionals officer were “You are my dragons, go and breathe fire!"

Richard Gurney

Digital Exemplar Lead