Richard, Senior Stakeholder Relations Manager, NHS National Services Scotland

I’m Richard. I'm a senior stakeholder relations manager and I work for NHS National Services Scotland (NSS).

What did you first do when you left school?

I went to university for a short period of time, but never really fitted into that environment. I had scraped the grades necessary to go on to higher education, but in my heart, I knew it wasn't the right choice for me. I came from a typical working-class family and the fact I was going on to higher education meant a lot to them. Because of that, I felt even worse when I left university after a few short months. I felt I had let myself and my family down.

What attracted you to working in the NHS?

The opportunity to be part of something I really believed in and to make a positive difference to people's lives. It takes an incredible range of skills and experiences to achieve what our NHS does each and every day. To be able to use my set of skills in support of our great national effort is hugely rewarding.

Our values, both for NHS Scotland and within NSS, are my own. I appreciate the opportunity to work in an environment where everyone, no matter how high their position, places those values at the heart of everything they do.

How did you get started?

After dropping out of university, aged 18, I worked in bars for a while. Then a chance opportunity led to me getting a start in journalism, which became my career for two decades. After I left the media, I worked in PR and other related areas, but I was really searching for a meaningful 'second career'.

In my 40s, I applied for a temporary role as Publishing Manager at Health Scotland, which is now part of Public Health Scotland. I was fortunate enough to be offered the position. It was a steep learning curve joining the NHS, but the team I joined was terrific, well-led, very welcoming, and patient with someone who had a lot of questions to ask!

From there, I applied for my current role with NHS National Services Scotland. My title is senior stakeholder relations manager, which isn't necessarily the clearest job description. However, it does allow me to get involved in lots of interesting and valuable work, and meet people throughout our organisation and beyond.

Describe your day-to-day role

I lead on media handling for NSS, which means writing or approving all of our responses to journalists. NSS is at the heart of so much of the work of the NHS in Scotland, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. That means we get many different enquiries related to any area of our services. Media handling is very much a team effort with marketing communications. We also have to work very closely with colleagues within NSS and a wide range of external stakeholders to make sure we continue to provide a high-quality media handling service.

I also provide a wider leadership role as part of the senior management team for our area. This can involve strategic leadership for major communications projects. Another key responsibility is enabling colleagues to develop professionally by helping to create a positive and rewarding team environment.

What skills are the most important for you to do your job well?

The most important skill for any communicator is the ability to listen and to understand. You need to make the effort to engage with your audience, to 'step in their shoes'. Unless you do that, you cannot communicate effectively. This applies to all the media and communications activity I am involved in and is also key to the other major aspect of my role, supporting our senior stakeholders within NSS. This involves providing strategic communications and reputation management advice, to help protect and enhance the reputation of NSS and our people.

I have always been fascinated by people. What makes us 'tick' as individuals, our motivations and drivers? What are the values we hold dear and how do those shape our behaviour and interactions? Being plain old 'nosey' I guess! But hopefully in a good way and with the best of intentions.

What advice would you give a school leaver thinking about working in the NHS?

Simply that it is the opportunity of a lifetime. Our NHS needs all kinds of people with all kinds of skills. Every one of our colleagues within our NHS is equally valuable, no matter what their job or role is. We couldn't do anything without everyone.

Joining the NHS means being part of the biggest and best team you can imagine. It means that what you do every day will help to save lives across Scotland, protect our families and communities, and improve the health of our nation.

Maybe you are not sure what you want to be just yet? I didn't know when I left school. It took me many years to finally find my purpose and my 'forever home' within the NHS in Scotland.

Together, our NHS is doing amazing work every day. You can be part of that.

Tell us what makes you proud to be a key worker during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The commitment of everyone within the NHS family to help Scotland beat the pandemic. They have gone, and continue to go, above and beyond every single day.