The experience of caring for a terminally ill relative has given Hannah Gray a real passion for ensuring local people have their say on health and social care services in Somerset.

Hannah, the new Manager of Healthwatch Somerset, found it difficult to access the right health services when she was a carer for her mum 14 years ago.  This led the former legal secretary to begin studies in Health and Social Care and make the career change into the health sector.

She explains: “I originally started out in the legal profession.  Following my own personal experience as a carer, I was struck by how difficult services were to navigate and to obtain information.  I made the career change and have never been happier working in a challenging, ever-changing sector that I feel truly passionate about!”

The mum-of-two, from Weston-Super-Mare, was an Engagement Lead for Macmillan Cancer Support and before that worked for the Stroke Association in North Somerset.

She says she is looking forward to bringing her previous skills and experience to help people in the county have a say on local health and social care services: “I am passionate about ensuring every voice is heard and believe in the power of the collective public voice to shape the health and care services they access.

“I think the health and care concerns for the people of Somerset are similar to those across the country.  People want quicker access to GP services and urgent/emergency care, better quality interactions with health providers and clinicians and to feel actively involved in their care.

“There is work to be done around mental health services, particularly concerning children and young people.  The Healthwatch Somerset team worked hard last year to gather the views of Somerset residents on the NHS Long Term Plan and we will now be looking to build on the feedback received.

“Over the coming year we will have a new team at Healthwatch and the priorities will be to continue to raise the profile of the service and the number of volunteers we have supporting our work.  We will continue to work closely with the Board to deliver the strategic priorities to ensure we are responding to what we have heard and continue to engage as many people in Somerset as possible.”