For the third instalment of our Director Life series, Rob Parker spoke with John Simpson. John gives us an insight into his career history, including the merger between the former Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust and University Hospital of North Staffordshire Trust. John also gives some great advice for people looking to make the step up to director level work.


Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, John. Could you tell us a bit about how you came to take the role of Director of Estates, Facilities & PFI Division at UHNM?

I began my career in the NHS as an electrician in 1979. Since then, I have been fortunate enough to be mentored through each step of my progression, culminating in my appointment to a director-level position at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals.

There, I led on the merger of the EFM divisions in Sheffield and then again in Nottingham. This led on to my role at UHNM – a key requirement they had was previous experience of mergers.


What was it that attracted you to the position?

UHNM were going through a difficult time and being able to help in those types of situations is an important part of my job, and something I relish.

Bringing with me the experience of leading mergers for two of the country’s largest university hospitals, I looked forward to being able to make a positive impact on the services.


What was the most enjoyable aspect of the role?

The commitment from staff during testing circumstances was incredibly heartening to witness. Everyone consistently put the services being provided to patients first and continued their hard work despite the personal insecurities they were having to cope with.


What was the most challenging aspect?

There was intense public and media scrutiny of the merger resulting from the coverage of the enquiry into Stafford Hospital – this increased the pressure on making sure the merger was carried out as smoothly as possible.

That pressure was coupled with the new service models set out by the TSA – at the time this was unprecedented in the NHS and created some very challenging deadlines.

On top of this, these deadlines were for projects and initiatives linked to the resolution of urgent clinical risks. It was therefore imperative that these were delivered to a high standard and on time.


What was the biggest success of the merge?

The changes made to the service, which significantly improved the quality of the care environment. What the E&FM teams achieved will, in my view, make a significant difference to the health of people in the area for generations to come.


In hindsight, what would you have done differently?

The timescale we were working to meant that some very challenging project milestones were put in place. This contributed to the already high-pressure situation that we were in – in retrospect we should have allowed more time.


What have you learnt from the merge and how have you implemented it in your own career?

To involve people affected by change at the earliest possible opportunity and to be open and honest about expectations.

I have now retired but continue to work on an interim basis, passing my experience on and mentoring up and coming directors.


Could you give some advice for people looking to make the step up to director level work?

Throughout my working life, I have been fortunate enough to meet people who have helped me progress to the next stage in my career. But to meet these kinds of people you have to ensure that you are visible in the industry.

My main piece of advice would be to ensure you engage with the NHS EFM community and continually widen your network. There you will find mentors and people who will be happy to impart their knowledge and help you gain the skills necessary to make the step up to director level work.



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Rob Parker

Joining the team in 2016, Rob has over five years of experience in middle and senior FM Recruitment, and heads up the FM and Property team here at Insight. A dedicated member of the family who’s great under pressure, Rob has successfully run multiple exclusively retained campaigns.

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