Having been in his position with Northumbria Primary Care for four years, here’s our non-executive director, Chris Gray, to tell us more about his journey as a non-exec director and how his role helps shape the future of NPC. 

I grew up in Newcastle in the Tyne Valley area and studied medicine at Newcastle University. After university, I did most of my clinical training in the North East but then moved to Edinburgh to work as a senior lecturer at Edinburgh University and consultant for stroke and elderly care at the City Hospital.

I returned to the North East to maximise the use of our season tickets at St James’ Park and consolidate my clinical experience as a consultant physician at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Gateshead before pursuing my academic career in stroke research as Professor of Elderly Care at Newcastle University. I established the stroke service in Sunderland and led the introduction of the undergraduate medical curriculum across the Wear Base Unit. 

My interest in medical education led to my appointment as the Postgraduate Dean for Medicine and Dentistry for the Northeast and Cumbria. I am incredibly passionate about medical education; providing students, doctors and dentists in the North East and Cumbria with the best opportunities for training and to realise their ambitions to shape healthcare across the North East. 

In 2013, I was appointed as medical director for County Durham and Darlington Foundation Trust. Throughout my time at CDDFT, I was responsible for leading the trust clinical strategy, driving improvements in the quality of patient care and providing clinical leadership on all aspects of patient care.

After this, I then went to work for NHS England where I was the medical director for the North East and North Cumbria. This was different to my previous medical director role as I was responsible for the commissioning and strategic delivery of clinical services including primary care, across a much larger patch. 

During my time at NHS England, I was involved in the planning and quality monitoring of clinical services within the North East and I became aware of NPC and its ambition to provide primary care at scale. Supporting NPC as a non-executive director was a new opportunity that really interested me. It was clear how passionate NPC were about providing the best patient care to their communities, which is something that resonated with me as my whole career background has involved improving patient care and safety. 

My current role involves being part of the NPC Board, setting the strategic direction for the business, and supporting and holding the executives to account. As a NED, you’re there to bring a different perspective to decision-making and help the board reach a view that we believe is right for patients and staff.

Aside from my career journey, I am incredibly passionate about water sports, in particular surfing. I started surfing in the early 70’s long before it started to become popular in the UK, and I fell in love with the sport instantly. Despite my worn-out joints, in my spare time, you’ll still find me up at the Northumberland coast in Bamburgh or on a flight with my surfboard. 

This is my fourth year with NPC and in that time, I have seen so much growth and development. Right now, it’s an incredibly exciting time with the expansion of our practices and welcoming new colleagues from Valens, Coquet Medical Group and Northumberland Health. We are beginning to realise the ambition of true neighbourhood working, expanded primary care teams and enhanced patient access. 

During our visits to practices across the patch, it was inspirational to meet such highly motivated and caring staff with pride in the services they provide for local people. I’ve really enjoyed seeing NPC go from strength to strength and look forward to seeing this continue. 

What makes NPC great is the people, and we are very fortunate to have such hard-working and dedicated staff. We know it isn’t easy, providing healthcare is incredibly challenging but it is worthwhile. You and your teams, by being your best, are helping our patients to be their best and maximize their lives. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all our staff and to congratulate them on their commitment and dedication. Here’s to another successful year, good waves and maybe, just maybe, a trophy at St James’ Park! 

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