It’s a staggering fact that men who live in the poorer parts of Doncaster can currently expect to live up to 10 years less than their counterparts who live in the better off areas of the borough.
Similarly, women living in our most deprived areas also are being cheated in the health league table; their current life expectancy is around seven years less than those who live just a few miles away in the leafier suburbs.
It’s wrong. Where you live shouldn’t determine how long you live.
So, as I roll my sleeves up to get started in my new role as Chair of the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), I am driven by a fierce determination to provide the best possible care for all and to close the unfair gap that currently exists between those Doncaster communities that enjoy good health and those that don’t.
It’s a massive challenge and one the local NHS cannot overcome on its own without the help of a wide range of partner organisations and, importantly, Doncaster patients themselves. But I see it as a top priority.
We have plenty of hard work ahead. But firstly, let me explain a bit about myself. As the son of a British soldier my early life was spent living in a number of army bases and moving location every couple of years. My first real taste of Yorkshire was as a medical student at the University of Leeds in the late 1980s, the city my parents have now settled in.
After qualifying as a junior doctor, the military DNA in me drew me back to the forces and I served with the Royal Army Medical Corp for seven years, rising to the rank of Major and trained to be a GP during this time. I was deployed to many places around the world, including Eastern Europe, Africa, North America and for a while was doctor to the 2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment.
I am proud to be an adopted Doncastrian, having worked in the town as a GP for 11 years – the last 10 as a full-time partner – at Bentley Surgery and I’m passionate about wanting to make a difference. Locally, I work closely with the Macmillan charity as a ‘survivorship’ GP, which involves liaising with family doctors to help Doncaster people who have won their battle against cancer. Further afield I’m actively involved in helping to develop better services across Yorkshire and the Humber for patients who need palliative and end of life care.
It is a huge privilege to be able lead the CCG for the next three years and one I relish. There are many challenges facing the NHS in Doncaster, including the high levels of local ill health, healthcare workforce shortages and financial pressures.
We know what the problems are; they are on our radar. Now is the time to work together to find solutions.