The life of a Healthwatch Camden Chair

In this post we interview Saloni Thakrar, Healthwatch Camden Chair since 2017.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself and why you’re interested in health care?

I’m a Pharmacist and have a Master’s Degree in public health with strong clinical experience. I have also worked in various healthcare systems around the world.

I’ve had a professional career and have also volunteered. However, over the last four years I’ve been the primary carer for my twin daughters who have a genetic condition.

I’ve had to learn to navigate and understand the NHS so I can make absolutely sure that they’re getting quality care.

This journey has made me value the NHS and the service that it provides enormously.

As a carer embedded in the health system I’ve encountered countless families from different areas who are socially marginalised or economically deprived and this has really sparked an interest and a passion in me to work with families.

Since I’ve been involved as a carer and have a good understanding of the system I’ve been invited as a lay member to various boards starting with the Camden Patient and Public Engagement Group (CPEG) and now Healthwatch Camden.

This exposure has deepened my knowledge and passion for the health and social care sector and has also allowed me to do different types of work.

I can now reach out to local communities to help them navigate the system – families, people with disabilities, refugees, asylum seekers and other marginalised communities.

I’m also very interested in technological innovation and service improvement. I certainly see that as completely essential for the future of the NHS.

It’s also extremely helpful to hear young people’s views on their evolving relationship with the NHS and what might help the NHS be more effective. In twenty years’ time I think the NHS will be very different.

Why did you decide to be the Healthwatch Camden Chair?

I want to make a difference and to create a positive change and impact. I want to listen to and encourage other communities and marginalised groups to be heard. I’d like to work with people to come up with solutions.

Of course, like all of us, I’m very concerned about what the future holds for the NHS. I have a strong interest in patient choice. I’m passionate about young people and families and would like to understand their perspective on health and social care in Camden.

Tell us what a week as the Healthwatch Chair looks like

I meet once a week with Frances, the Healthwatch Camden Director to discuss our strategy for contributing to the NHS and social services and our priorities within that. We’re very keen to make sure our activities always result in tangible gains for the NHS.

In turn, the board helps support the Healthwatch team in their activities. Board meetings are well structured, and everyone’s voice counts.

We are a diverse group coming from all walks of life. I also attend the NHS, Camden Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) governing body as the Healthwatch Camden representative.

I also sit on the Camden Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) Advisory Board with other Healthwatch Chairs which allows me to understand how the STP makes an impact on local decisions on care and vice-versa.

As Healthwatch Chairs we’re extremely keen to promote the need for engagement with patients and the public.

It is critical that they are involved in developing the solutions that can address the significant challenges of our health care system. A good example of the collaborative work we’ve done at STP level is the End of Life Care project.    

At our Annual General Meetings (AGMs) we get to meet local people and hear their views on health and social care in Camden. Our next AGM is at the end of the year.

What are your highlights so far?

One of the highlights this year has been our successful collaboration on the End of Life Care project with our local Healthwatch partners.

Another highlight was the Highgate report (which has been nominated for a Healthwatch network award). It shows that the patient voice can really have an impact on commissioners and make a change in decision-making.

I’m also really proud of the work we did with school children on social media. We were able to work with new audiences – young people, schools and youth organisations to build new relationships.

We also received input from people that we hadn’t heard from before, which will also help inform our future work.

Finally I want to mention the positive relationships we’ve built with our stakeholders – the CCG, schools, GPs and our local communities. Building relationships is critical for our work.  

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