HCL Issue 10 - Page 30

30 INSIGHT Samantha Allen ‘My heart has always been in the NHS’ Deputy editor Angela Sharda talks to chief executive of Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust Samantha Allen about the challenges female leaders face in the workplace and why we need more women at the top in the NHS amantha Allen was just 23 when she joined the NHS as a receptionist with a community mental health team in south London. Now she is chief executive of Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and chair of the Health and Care Women Leaders Network, a joint initiative from NHS Confederation and NHS Employers. Ms Allen says she didn’t plan a career in the NHS, ‘it just kind of happened’. ‘I’m not a clinician. In the mid-90s I found myself between jobs, doing temporary work in a community mental health team and absolutely fell in love with it – particularly the people,’ she says. She did, however, step outside of the NHS in 2007 to take a role as director of mental health in an American health insurance company. However, she decided to rejoin the health service in 2009 as service director for primary mental healthcare and wellbeing services across Sussex. ‘I missed the NHS, and what I learned was that skills are completely transferable. My heart has always been in the NHS, particularly the public-sector values,’ she explains. Ms Allen says the role of executive director of strategy at Sussex Partnership came up in 2015, when the NHS was recognising the need to nurture aspiring S Healthcare Leader 2019 Issue 10 It’s important to have a culture in the NHS that values and empowers people