A year of incredible firsts

Angela Shimada

Last year, NHS Employers sponsored the Allied Health Profession (AHP) Leader of the Year award at the Chief Allied Health Professions Officer (CAHPO) Awards. Angela Shimada, who won the award for her work as chair of the Lincolnshire AHP Strategic Forum and co-chair of the Lincolnshire Clinical Cabinet, reflects on a year of major upheaval and the vital role of AHPs.

It has been a year of incredible firsts and opportunities for me.
I received my first award, got my first deputy director post, continue to experience my first pandemic and even did my first TikTok dance (a tactic to motivate my children to do some school work).
As I sit back and reflect on a year gone by, I feel a little overwhelmed, somewhat emotional, and hugely motivated.  It would be clichéd to say winning the NHS England and NHS Improvement Allied Health Professional (AHP) Leader of the Year award has changed my life; however, it has played a part in a journey that I want to share. I hope it will inspire at least one AHP on their own AHP leadership journey, at least one organisation to reflect on the roles of their own AHPs, and at least one organisation to identify the gap in their senior AHP leadership and work towards closing it. 
The role of AHPs has experienced a not-so-quiet revolution, which emerged from the development and launch of AHPs into Action 2016. It was clear to me from the start that if the 14 professions that make up AHPs worked together as a collective, a stronger voice would be heard. 
So we started a revolution of our own and the Lincolnshire AHP Strategic Forum (now AHP Council) was formed. For me, this was driven by my inherent belief that AHPs not only possess the leadership capabilities required to deliver the future of health and care, but my steadfast belief in the power of diversity that AHPs bring into senior leadership. They bring a different lens and viewpoint that, from my outsider’s view, seemed missing in so many senior level discussions. 
Fast forward to 2019 and all of a sudden I find myself winning an award for my work in leading the Lincolnshire AHP Council and providing support to AHP leaders regionally and across the country in developing their own councils. I felt proud and embarrassed all at once, as the success of AHPs in Lincolnshire is and continues to be testament to our collective efforts.  
A few months later and Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust became the first organisation in Lincolnshire to identify the need for a strategic AHP leadership post; a Deputy Director of AHPs and Integrated Community Care.  Five years ago, a post like this was my aspirational goal and suddenly here I was taking the biggest leap of faith in my career. 
The importance of these strategic roles cannot be underestimated, with responsibility and accountability for AHPs across the organisation, and influence with a clear line of sight to Board.  These should not be confused with an AHP working in a senior role often subsumed into the operational day-to-day running of services.
New roles bring their own challenges: high expectations (your own and others), the need to find a place within an organisation, to be embedded and, as so many of these roles are new, there is no precedent to follow.
My role has allowed me to understand a wider organisational and system context, with the opportunity to influence on behalf of AHP services across the organisation and the system. COVID-19 has provided an additional challenge and opportunities as I develop into role. The ability to continue to connect with AHP system partners and, additionally, connect with chief AHPs across the region to inform and support organisational decision making has been invaluable.
As we work towards the NHS reset, the power of AHPs continues to be harnessed in Lincolnshire, with a focus on the rehabilitation needs of those post-COVID and those whose needs have increased as an indirect result. We must retain our focus and ability to work seamlessly between organisations as we head towards an Integrated Care System and as such, we continue to share our learning from COVID and look for opportunities that support the entire Lincolnshire AHP workforce.
So my questions to you as we look to the next year are: what will you do to support and develop AHP leadership in your organisation in the future and what will be your leap of faith?


If you have any questions for Angela, email her angela.shimada@nhs.net or follow her on twitter @shimada_angela


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