Having developed my career mainly in the services departments of third sector organisations I have now taken on a broader role, finding myself very much a part of the policy and public affairs world. Communications and fundraising all have a part to play in my current role and I will continue to develop this knowledge.
I started off working for Snowsport Scotland in their services department and then went on to the PBC Foundation, a health charity based in Edinburgh where I led on a lottery funded project in their services team. Four years ago I accepted a job with Bowel Cancer UK, again within the services department. In the past four years my role has developed taking on the public affairs and policy work of the organisation in Scotland, looking after a staff and volunteer team and certain communication and fundraising functions. It's challenging and diverse. I wouldn't have it any other way.
Business Studies and Health Sciences degree from The Open University.
What does your current role entail on a day to day basis?
My role with Bowel Cancer UK is currently made up of elements from all of our departments so there really isn't a set script for any day. At the heart of everything we do there are people with bowel cancer so I have regular contact with patients and family members who inform our work whether as volunteer, trainees or sharing their stories for media and campaigns. The services arm of my work means that I could be delivering training to NHS Health Improvement Teams or organising stakeholder engagement events with the Scottish Government. The communications element means that I might be on the radio talking about good bowel health or writing an editorial on bowel screening services.
An increasing amount of my time is spent in meetings with NHS, Scottish Government and other cancer charities, through the Scottish Cancer Coalition, to ensure that bowel cancer patients are getting the absolute best service that the NHS in Scotland can provide, making sure they are being listened to when important decisions are being made and what improvements need to be made and how can we as a charity help.
I couldn't do any of this without the support of the Bowel Cancer UK team especially the other three members of staff based in Scotland and the volunteers all of which I line manage.
How much of your current role is taken up with public affairs activities?
Our public affairs work has increased over the last two years in Scotland to great effect. I would say as much as a quarter of my time is now spent on our public affairs work in the region.
What is the top public affairs priority for Bowel Cancer UK in Scotland, and how are you tackling it?
A large amount of work has been achieved by NHS Scotland and Scottish Government to introduce a brilliant bowel screening programme, one that many other countries are envious of and rightly so.
However, what does this mean when we look at the impact bowel screening has on other services such as endoscopy? This is where we want them to look next.
The quality of endoscopy services in Scotland needs to be high with enough resources to ensure that those who need to access these services can do so quickly and not be stranded on a waiting list. Improvements have to be made to ensure that high quality services are consistent across health boards so that it doesn't matter where you live, you are going to get the best endoscopy services available.
Bowel screening is vital in the battle to detect bowel cancer as early as possible but the more people who take up the offer to screen, the greater the need for endoscopy. Scotland needs to make sure that there are enough expert endoscopy specialists in each health board to cope with demand.
What value does working in partnership with others hold, such as being a member of the Scottish Cancer Coalition?
Being part of the Coalition not only means that you have a ready made platform that is respected in government on which to have your issues heard but it also means you have the support and expertise from other charities when you need it. The Scottish Cancer Coalition fosters a sharing environment and we all help each other. I have learnt so much by being a part of the coalition, seeing how other charities are approaching certain issues and it has inspired me when thinking about how best Bowel Cancer UK can move forward our campaigns in Scotland.
How much of the communications function within Bowel Cancer UK is focused on Scottish public affairs work? And is public affairs growing or decreasing in importance within the organisation?
The importance of public affairs within our charity is growing and growing, the impact that it is having on people with bowel cancer and their families is so positive and it has really brought together a community for bowel cancer patients. The organisation ensures that our services work and our policy and public affairs work inform and support each other, so we can identify issues for us to campaign on where we can develop resources.
As this work grows we will inevitably be increasing our communications work to support this need. Without our communications function we could not get the messages out there.
How do you work with UK-wide colleagues and comms departments to ensure ‘integrated communications’? Or is the term overrated?
Not overrated at all. It's key!
I spend a lot of time talking with my colleagues in London and in other parts of the UK about ideas, developments, the shifting environment and its impact, service delivery and what patients are saying to us. I travel to London frequently to ensure that the work in Scotland is part of the UK picture.
We are a team, we help each other. If the learning was not shared then we could fail to be consistent, fail the people with bowel cancer. This is not an option for us.
Which campaign/issue are you most proud to have worked on?
Never Too Young. This is a current campaign for Bowel Cancer UK which focuses on younger bowel cancer patients, those under 50 who often struggle to get an accurate diagnosis because they are thought to be 'too young' to be at risk of the disease. This campaign is making sure that these younger patients are given a voice and that people are listening. The campaign is having great effect and has empowered a lot of young people and their families who didn't feel there was a place for them. To find out more please visit the website.
What do you enjoy about public affairs and campaigning?
The impact that one person can have. One experience, one voice, if used in the right way can help thousands. Of course it takes other people to make sure that they are heard but putting those mechanisms and relationships in place and to see the direct impact that that can have on peoples lives is pretty humbling at times. It makes you proud of what you do for a living.
What are the challenges for the charity sector of the Scottish public affairs industry over the next five years?
More and more charities are going to have to look at partnership working and being innovative. This is not always easy but increasingly government wants to see the sharing of resources for the benefit of many. Innovative approaches to campaigning will make more of an impact and mean that the campaign is likely to get more attention. Balancing all of this to make sure that the people that need the changes most are benefiting is going to take time and skill to get right.
What's your prediction for the Scottish Independence Referendum result?
As an English born woman married to a Scottish born man, living in Scotland, the Referendum is a tricky one. I do not think that the yes vote will win, but it is having a big impact.
|Favourite restaurant for a business lunch?||Amarone, Edinburgh|
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|Tweet your career-to-date in 140 characters or less||Third sector, started in sports, now in health. Services expertise with a strong policy and public affairs flair. All about partnership.|
|What’s your Media diet?||BBC, Guardian, HuffPost - also becoming a fan of blogs......|
|Favourite Film||Arsenic and Old Lace|