Dr Sara Munro’s story for NHS75. @leedsandyorkpft

Dr Sara Munro’s story for NHS75

As the NHS reaches a momentous milestone of 75 years, this is an occasion to celebrate the dedicated staff and volunteers who have shaped the NHS into what it is today. In the lead up to the NHS’s birthday on 5 July, LYPFT staff are telling their stories of inspiration and dedication that led them to join the NHS and what motivates them to continue their important work.

Dr Sara Munro is Chief Executive of Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

Several things collided to make me choose the NHS and mental health.

Firstly, my mum. She was a nursing auxiliary at Ladywell Hospital in Salford and I enjoyed visiting her at work while I was doing my A-levels. She told me why she loved the NHS so much and, after exploring health care a bit more with some voluntary work, I decided I wanted to be a nurse.

My family encouraged me to go to University and some of my early placements while training were in mental health. I ignored the stigma around mental health at the time – in fact it just drove me to get more experience in this area. I got to work closely with patients and families and I just loved it! When I qualified as a nurse I never looked back.

Simply put – making a difference to people in their lives inspires me. That includes service users, their families and my colleagues over the years. The privilege of working with people who benefit from the support our service provides gives me the same inspiration now as it did when I started, and I still remember patients I worked with on acute wards that shaped me as a nurse and as a leader.

In fact, I remember one patient in particular whom I worked with on an acute ward who told me that when I spent time with him it made him feel like a real person who mattered. This inspired my PhD topic on the attitudes of staff!

I feel like I am part of a big family who all genuinely care about what we do, that are values driven and go above and beyond for people who are vulnerable and often marginalised in wider society.

I love to see my colleagues developing, progressing and getting huge personal and professional satisfaction from the difference they make.

Highlights from my career include:

  • My farewell party when I went from a being a matron on an acute unit to starting my PhD. I had the very traditional ‘dunking in the bath’ by colleagues and patients.
  • The day our mental health service was separated from being a sub-department of the acute hospital and we became a mental health trust. The benefits were instantaneous.
  • Seeing how much we all pulled together across every department to help get through Covid.
  • Meeting King Charles on behalf of the Trust and telling him how much my colleagues cared about what they do and go above and beyond every day because what they do really matters.
  • Recently, carrying out triage assessments in the CMHT as part of temporary deployment into the service.
  • And of course, getting the CEO job at LYPFT. The first person I phoned was my Mum!

Working in the NHS is not for the fainthearted. It is hard work; it is challenging and it can be unpredictable – but that just makes it all the more rewarding. To be able to make a difference to people in their everyday lives, knowing that it can be life changing, is hard to put into words. And to work every day with the most amazing people who become your family – because of what you experience together and how you support one another – is humbling.

Now, my focus is ensuring we support all our staff in the trust to be the best they can be and importantly to look after their own wellbeing.