During my time on the recent NHS Youth Forum, I loved having my views and opinions heard by significant people of our National Health Service. However, I ensure that it is not for my own benefit, but for the children and young people in Herefordshire who are receiving treatment and care from Wye Valley NHS Trust. I met regularly with the managing director, human resources director, and senior clinicians in paediatric care, to feedback the views of young people. Being a member of this incredible, national forum has provided great opportunities, including attending meetups where youth forums from hospitals across England come together to brainstorm ideas.
As we were unable to physically meet up, I found having a virtual residential an interesting way of bringing the 2019/20 NHS England Youth Forum together for a final time and it was lovely to see everyone again through Zoom or Webinar. I was able to be more vocal during these sessions as I find it easier to speak out in group situations over video calls. I would strongly recommend the British Youth Council considers holding more virtual based meetings and residentials with young people who are involved in the various programmes that they lead. We were also able to have engaging conversions with senior leaders from NHSE & NHS Digital during these sessions, enabling us to make a positive impact on how the NHS run services and engage with young people in the feedback sessions. I believe that this was a positive step as it enabled me to engage with the NHS and not have to worry about having to travel anywhere which I can sometimes find difficult as a wheelchair user.
In November 2019, when the current NHS England Youth Forum Project began, I decided I wanted to look into creating a youth forum for young people. I hoped that this forum would provide a space for young people to tell professionals their views within their local primary care network in Herefordshire, as I believe that young people were being overlooked by their local GPs. I approached Hereford Medical Group, my local primary care network, with my forum idea, and at the beginning of my engagement with senior officials at the practice they were keen to hear about my project but as time went on the engagement stopped and I haven’t been able to achieve what I set to do. I have learnt not to give up engaging with health care professionals if you are passionate about making a positive change in our health sector because eventually you will be listened to. I have been able to further develop my communication skills during this project because I have had to engage with healthcare professionals in my community either verbally or through written communication such as email.
It is vital that children and young people are listened to by key decision makers across all sectors because they are the next generation and will benefit from the decisions that are made by these leaders now for years to come. Children and young people are preparing organisations for the future and I feel that this NHS England youth forum group have certainly made sure that leaders make these decisions so the NHS for young people is sustained for the future. We have to remember that the NHS has been going for over 70 years and is of course unique to the United Kingdom, and children and young people are at its heart.
Being a member of the NHS England Youth Forum has opened so many different doors and opportunities for me and has led to me joining other youth advisory panels such as for the Sport and Recreation Alliance. The voice of children and young people is key to any organisation as they have to remember that we are the next generation who are going to potentially front the organisation, so we have to be heard today to have any impact on their current objectives. There are now many children and young people across England who are incredibly passionate about getting themselves and others heard which is so awesome to see and has continued to grow since 2018.
I was to give any advice to future members of youth panels, especially the NHS England Youth Forum, it would be to not give up when you are either speaking to or trying to engage with key decision makers in order to achieve your objectives. In the end they will stand up and listen to you whether that is at local, regional or national level, and it will happen I can promise you that. I would also advise that you use your status as a member of the Youth Forum because this will give you the extra power to engage with professionals at all levels.
I would like to end by piece and record my thanks to the British Youth Council, NHS England, Kath Evans who was instrumental in the creation of the youth forum at NHS England back in 2014, Luci O’Reilly, Zoe Cumberland, Leon Hill, Maria Marlow, Saarah Bokhari, Nagina Javid, and last but not least Olivia Butterworth at NHS England for all your incredible work in ensuring the continued success of the NHS England Youth Forum.