Helen Ashcroft, MSc Health Service Management (2006)

Who are you currently working for and what is your job title?

Helen Ashcroft, MSc Health Service Management (2006)I currently work for the Robert Jones & Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which is a specialist Orthopaedic Trust near Oswestry in the West Midlands.

My current role is Business Planning Manager. In this role I am responsible for the delivery of robust business planning and performance systems for the Trust.

How has your career developed since graduating from the University of Birmingham? eg How have you got where you are today from your student days?

When I was initially studying at HSMC I was an NHS Management Trainee, I then chose not to complete my dissertation for my MSc for a couple of years after that time.

On completing the management training scheme I took a decision to move back to North Wales, where I was originally from, which meant a move into the Welsh NHS. My first role was as a Project Manager for the then Local Health Authority. In 2003 I then went to work as a Modernisation Manager Wrexham Local Health Board focusing on Primary Care and leading on the implementation of the GP contract, I then later became Assistant Director of Commissioning with the Local Health Board.

In 2007, although I loved my role in the Local Health Board I decided it was time to take the plunge and go back into an acute trust as Deputy Divisional Manager of Surgery, managing Orthopaedics, Orthodontics, ENT and Pain in one hospital and Maxillofacial Surgery across North Wales. I then moved to my current role in 2009.

Because I choose to continue living in North Wales and have a work base of no more than about an hour from home due to family commitments (I am married with identical twin sons who are two) I have in some ways limited my career progression and opportunities, however I love where I work and I get to live in a truly beautiful place and, outside of work, have a very relaxed lifestyle.

In addition to my NHS role I also guest lecture from time to time in De Montfort University on Performance Management in the NHS to 3rd year undergraduates and I am a Mentor to two undergraduates at Birmingham University. 

Why did you originally apply to study at HSMC? eg what first attracted you to the University?

I had a few friends who went to Birmingham University as undergraduates and loved it. When I applied to do the management training scheme the chance to study at HSMC for the education components of the scheme was a real bonus. 

What are your fondest memories of the University and HSMC in particular? E.g. If you were recommending the University to a prospective student what particular aspects of your stay with us would you emphasise? What were the best parts about your time here as a student?

I particularly remember my first week in the University when we as students were really quite nervous, what was special was how at ease you were made to feel. The lecturers were very approachable and the support staff were always available to help, something which continued through to my graduation. HSMC is also quite a unique and privileged unit in that it is housed in the old Cadbury family home which makes it feel almost like a family unit.

The calibre of teaching was a big draw, the lecturers working at HSMC are very well regarded and many are considered the best in their field. It really felt like you were learning from the best.

I always remember how easy the library facilities at HSMC were to use. The online catalogue of books and the ability to send and receive material by post was excellent when you lived a long way away as were the on line research tools. 

What did you think of the learning experience within the University? Which subjects/modules did you find most valuable for your later career?

The breadth of the modules we undertook as trainees from (Primary Care to Leadership, the NHS Structure and History through to International Healthcare) was excellent and gave us an excellent academic grounding. 

What advice would you give to current students studying on your degree programme? eg Module choice, accommodation, any other advice?

My first bit of advice would be to really enjoy their time in HSMC, it is a unique opportunity to learn from the best. After this I would say to choose a wide variety of modules initially so that they can find out what really interests them. Later on perhaps think about the roles they may want when they graduate and pick modules to give them the best possible grounding in that area.

In what ways are you still in touch with the University as an alumnus? eg do you attend any alumni events/volunteer?

For a few years I didn’t really do a lot with the University’s alumni, then about 18 months ago I received an email asking for potential Mentors to current undergraduate students. I have had a Mentor since the training scheme and realise how important the role is in helping you to take time out, think about things differently and ultimately learn about yourself. I now mentor two students, one who I have mentored for about a year who is currently working for Microsoft in her year in industry between her second and third years and one who is in her third year studying Nursing.