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Change is the only constant in life, and in NHSBT too

Anthony Clarkson shares his experience of his first few weeks in his new role as Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation

26 February 2019


I firmly believe that one of the reasons NHSBT is an exceptional place to work is the fact that whatever role we each carry out, we are part of a remarkable team that saves and improves lives every day.

The last few weeks have taught me that what I already believed to be true is certainly the case: namely that whatever changes in our roles the core values that drive us remain the same.

I have personally experienced the impact of change in the last few weeks. Earlier this month NHSBT did me the honour of appointing me as the substantive Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation. As you may know I have been the Interim Director since August 2018, covering the role while Sally Johnson led NHSBT forward as our Interim Chief Executive.

Having worked in donation for the majority of my career and as Assistant Director for Organ Donation for the past 8 years, I am still adjusting to my new reality in the hot seat.

A real highlight for me has been the wonderful messages of support that I have received from across the organisation both prior to my interview and post the announcement, I am committed to being an open and accessible Director who knows, and is known by, their team. To start in post with the support of so many valued colleagues means a great deal and I intend to be out and about across centres and with teams in the months.

The last few weeks have been a fascinating mix of the new and the familiar. As always organ donation requires dedicated work to keep it in the public eye and to keep those vital donation discussions happening in family homes up and down the UK.

The tragic death of young Carter Cookson while waiting for a heart transplant is a sobering reminder for us all that the ‘3 people who die every day in the UK’ that we quote have faces, names and lives cut short because their organ could not be found.

As a father of two healthy girls I can only imagine what Carter’s parents are going through, but if I ever needed a reminder of the importance of the work we in ODT undertake this must surely be it. My simple ambition is to lead ODT to support ever more organ donations and transplants to save more lives.

Anthony wearing headphones in a radio studioOpt out has also kept us all busy and last week I was invited to take part in the Radio 4 show ‘You and Yours’ as the expert opinion in an organ donation phone in. I was delighted to listen to a succession of interested, engaged and knowledgeable callers sharing their views in a positive and open environment.

Less delightful was the realisation that I was alone in Wogan House in London while the main show broadcast from Salford a stone’s throw from my home! But given other meetings had bought me to the big smoke, at least technology allowed me to be a contributor, even from a small empty room.

Image: On BBC Radio 4 show ‘You and Yours’ talking Organ Donation with callers

We as an organisation will of course work with whatever legislation Parliaments determine, but at the very least the debate the potential for opt out has generated has to be welcomed.

Last weekend my wife Rachel and I joined friends for a long-planned trip to Prague. It had been somewhat overtaken in my thoughts by work and consequently my usual careful planning of our weekends away ended being a slightly frantic Google search on Thursday night prior to an early flight.

I have to say Prague was beautiful and full of historic interest, so I highly recommend it to anyone. It offered a welcome few days of downtime after a taxing few weeks and I feel that I have returned with my batteries fully charged and ready for whatever comes next.

Anthony and his wife Rachel pose for a selfie by a church in PragueImage: Taking in the sights of Prague with my lovely wife Rachel

Tuesday (19th February) was my first ODT Senior Management Team meeting since my appointment and discussions were a mix of the operational, analytical and aspirational as we considered how we can take our service forward together. I consider myself very fortunate to have a senior team comprising such dedicated and knowledgeable colleagues and I am excited by the opportunities that we can embrace as a team.

At present we are on track for 2018/19 to be our best every year of ODT with the most donors and most transplants, most lives saved ever.

I cannot imagine wanting to work anywhere else with any ‘targets’ less essential then these, I hope you feel the same and if you do I look forward to our collective journey to save lives in the years ahead.

With best wishes and thank you for reading my blog.

Anthony