Sarah Forbes – Associate Medical Director Leeds CCG

Sarah Forbes is one of the Associate Medical Directors of Leeds CCG, and a GP partner at a practice in West Yorkshire. She’s worked in healthcare for  15 years, and became an associate director at Leeds CCG in April 2018.

Her experience of Shadow Board was in representing the Leeds Health and Care Partnership Executive Group (PEG), as she explains:

“Ours was different to a lot of other Shadow Boards because it’s a system board. PEG is the chief executives of all the health and  care organisations in Leeds, so it includes the acute trust, the CCG, Leeds City Council public health, the mental health trust, the community health trust and third sector, so it was focused on system working.”

Like many other participants, Sarah was recommended by her Director to join Shadow Board – known as Shadow PEG in Leeds – and felt the programme offered a good opportunity to develop and push herself.

The benefits of being part of the programme were not just for Sarah, there were clear organisation and system benefits too, and she was clear that it was worthwhile:

“It’s been all positives. For me, an experience like this is perfect because it’s a hands-on experience. I learn much more through osmosis and living things.

For the organisation, you have a much richer understanding of system working and, dare I say it, governance and how to get things done. Fundamentally it’s about building relationships, knowing the right people to speak to and meeting people from other organisations. You’re suddenly exposed to all the conversations at the next level up. 

Personally, I’ve been asked to attend PEG since taking part in the programme, and before doing Shadow PEG I would have been a bit daunted by the experience. Now, I’m happy to go and know that I am able to contribute. I know the sort of things they are going to discuss and I feel totally comfortable in that arena. That is one huge personal development benefit.

In terms of value to the system, it’s having that freedom to comment on those papers when you’re not as constrained as somebody might be as the chief executive of an organisation. Because it’s a development programme you’ve got that freedom to speak, and I think that’s what PEG have appreciated from us, that we can talk more freely about what we actually think.”

And clearly the positives of the programme are seen by others, as Sarah’s Shadow Board is still going, despite the programme being scheduled to finish.

“We did an evaluation paper to PEG to say we’d like to continue at least for another 6 months and then review. The feedback we got from PEG was that they had found our input really useful so we continue to sit as a Shadow PEG.”

Sarah says that her experience of Shadow PEG has taught her much and she’s clear that others who are considering the move to executive director level should consider Shadow Board as a development opportunity:

“In some ways, it’s taught me too many things! Certainly lots of learning about system working and it’s been really good working with different organisations and seeing different ways of approaching things and delivering services.

For me, the experience of personal development is invaluable. If you’re wanting to move from an operational to a strategic level, then you’re doing it in a safe space where you’re all learning together. If you want to move to the next level up but you want to have a little try of it first, you can ask yourself the question: ‘do I want to work at this level or is this not for me?’”