The chair of a company is essential to the smooth running and effectiveness of a board of directors, they play a key role in leading the board and focusing it on strategic matters, overseeing decisions and setting high governance standards. 

Having been in position as Northumbria Primary Care chair for four months, here’s our chair, Katie Stevens to tell us a bit more about her background, the purpose of her role, how she supports staff and patients and why she enjoys being chair at NPC. 

I was born in Birmingham and moved with my family to Herefordshire where I grew up and lived until I went to university. From a working-class background, I was the first grandchild to attend university which felt like a big step to make and made my family incredibly proud. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do career-wise, so instead, I studied subjects I simply enjoyed at Cardiff University – history and philosophy. 

After university, I qualified as a chartered accountant and loved it. I now have over 30 years of finance and audit experience in both the public and private sectors, my last role being interim Finance Director for the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health. I spent a lot of time throughout my career living abroad in varied places such as Nigeria, Russia, Georgia, and the US. 

In my 20s I had an accident at Birmingham New Street Station, and I was diagnosed by my GP with epilepsy. This had a massive impact on my work and personal life and led to me losing my job, as it was ‘inappropriate to have seizures at work’, taking the infamous sodium valproate meant I was unable to have children and I could no longer drive. Because of this, I decided to move to London where public transport links were so much better and there was more going on in the city. 

Five years ago, I had major brain surgery on the NHS, to remove my temporal lobe which means I can live life like I used to before my accident and I can now drive again! After my surgery and regaining my driving licence, we made the quick decision to move to Salley in Northumberland. We always wanted to end up in Northumberland as we love both the rural countryside and the community vibe in the North East. Being able to drive again made this possible. In a way, my accident was one of the best things that ever happened to me as it opened a load of new experiences and enabled me to have a totally different perspective on life. 

In 2022, I became an associate non-executive director for Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and I was fortunate to be able to sit on the board meetings for NPC. I admired their desire to remain community-focused and their passion for focusing on and prioritising providing the best patient care. I was elected chair of Northumbria Primary Care in November 2023, and it has been a fantastic and rewarding experience. 

As chair of NPC, my day-to-day duties involve regular communication with the managing director – both challenging and supporting, reading lots of papers, planning for meetings and, of course, chairing the board. A big part of my role also involves visiting practices to talk to staff and patients and attending patient participation groups. I love getting out into the community and chatting with our staff and patients as they have a huge impact on our strategy and vision for the future. This feedback is crucial to make sure we constantly work to improve staff and patient experience.

As well as being chair of NPC, I am also a trustee to ten brilliant charities and Multi Academy Trusts including Finance Director for Northumberland Cricket Board, Trustee for Epilepsy Action, Scope, The Orpheus Centre, Camphill Village Trust and Young Epilepsy which are all very close to my heart. 

As I said before I adore the countryside and in my spare time I enjoy going on walks with our dog, endless gardening and I also help with lambing in the springtime. 

Although I’ve only been chair of NPC for under a year, the development and growth I have seen within this time have been phenomenal. We welcomed Valens Medical Partnership and Coquet Medical Group and adopted our new neighbourhood approach to ensure we focus on the health and wellbeing of our local communities. I think it’s important to have time to slow down and reflect on the achievements and look at what we can improve on from last year. I think a big focus in 2024 will be developing our clinical strategy and focusing on transforming healthcare for our communities.

I’d really like to take this opportunity to thank all NPC staff for everything they do every day and for the commitment and dedication I have seen when visiting practices. I hope to meet many more colleagues over the coming weeks and months.

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