This year, we are sharing stories from members of staff from different teams. We want to highlight the vital work of all teams across our organisation, from estates and administrative teams to community services and ward staff, and to hear about their personal stories of working for Devon Partnership NHS Trust.
Stephen Collings, Contract Business Manager
Can you tell us a little about your training and experience?
Following my degree in Film Studies, I made the most of that by diving straight into a career in the public sector (alongside a side-line as a film journalist), working for many years both at Camden Council and Bristol City Council, latterly in social care Project Management. I was involved in a few projects relating to dementia, including developing a Dementia Quality Mark for Care Homes, so I was excited to see the opportunity arise for a Business Manager in the new Bristol Dementia Wellbeing Service back in 2015. I was even more thrilled – and a little nervous – to be offered this post and joined in July 2015, a few months after the service had ‘gone live’.
What does your role entail and what does a typical day in your working life look like?
My role has grown and developed with the service and it is about as varied as I can imagine – primarily being a link role for Bristol to the various centralised functions in Devon Partnership Trust. Alongside responsibility for the delivery of the service against our contract and other sub-contracted services, my role encompasses our estates, finances, communications, IT & telephones and being our Equality, Diversity & Inclusion lead. I also line manage Shaun, our Assistant Research Practitioner and Lorraine, who supports the day-to-day management of our sites.
However, for most staff in the service, their experience of my role is to fix their IT woes, whether it is an issue with network connectivity, a broken laptop or how to do something in Excel. The biggest challenge this year has been keeping 100+ colleagues working from home – and I’m often told how patient I am! I see my core role as ensuring my colleagues are able to focus on their clinical work, so if I can look after the bits around them (whether visible or not), that’s what’s important for the service.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Hands down, the answer is my colleagues! If there’s anything this period of (largely) working from home has taught me, it is the value of being around such a dedicated, passionate and knowledgeable group of staff. They bring such experience, expertise - and humour – to roles which are emotionally challenging by their very nature.
Is there a single change that would make your job better, either for you or the people you support?
One of the biggest challenges is the digital disconnect for many older people. There are so many opportunities and initiatives out there for people living with dementia and their carers that are reliant on use of technology. This was never more acute than in active lockdown where we all saw ways in which people connected or moved resources online. Whilst this was great to see, we were all quite aware that for those without the means or experience of technology, they were doubly isolated, so one of the ways in which we addressed this was sending physical activity packs, updated each month, to those who did not have access to online activities.
What would you like to highlight about the work of your team?
There’s so much that is positive, it’s hard to pick one, but one of the most striking successes of the service has been in the consistency of relationships we develop – that we don’t discharge and for the most part, people’s experience of our service is with their dedicated Navigator and/or Practitioner. For people to feel they only have to tell their story once, for someone to help them navigate all of the systems of support they need, or just to have a familiar and friendly voice to speak to when things get tough, is invaluable. The feedback we receive each month is testament to how important this is for people. People’s identities and lived experience really matters to us, and informs the support we provide.
What do you get up to outside work?
I moved into my first house last year, so I have spent a lot of time renovating this and love designing and creating my own space. There’s not a wall, ceiling or floor that has remained untouched! I also paint portraits which is my way of relaxing, and every couple of years my friends coerce me into a group exhibition. For the most part it is something I do for my own benefit but it’s always nice that other people like what I do too. Otherwise, I enjoy hanging out with my friends where we often end up playing RockBand into the early hours (imagine a group of late 30s/early 40s adults pretending to be a rock band with plastic instruments and ruining your favourite songs). Music is really important to me, and my love of David Bowie is evident around my home.