Rebecca Steinfeld’s Reflections on Four Years at National Voices
Dr Rebecca Steinfeld
- How Can We Dismantle Health Inequity Together?
- Be The Change
- VCSE Health and Wellbeing Alliance
- Systems for Change
- Health inequalities
- Person-centred care
- Primary care
- Integrated care
I started as Head of Policy in March 2020, as lockdown set in and the whole world spun on its axis, with health and social care transforming overnight. The stakes could not have been higher for people living with long-term conditions and disabilities – every issue felt like life or death. Meanwhile, I had two young children in tow, had two miscarriages soon after starting, and was stepping up from a junior role in a maternity charity into this big role in health and care. To say it was challenging would be a huge understatement! The learning curve was certainly steep.
But I think we all rose to the challenges together. Under the inspiring leadership of Charlotte Augst, we quickly identified the main cross-cutting issues confronting our members and the people and communities they support – clarifying confusing communications, surfacing the barriers to people accessing digital care, raising awareness about the isolating experiences of those shielding, and shining a light on the unequal experiences of the pandemic.
Tackling health inequalities
I am particularly proud of helping to increase National Voices’ commitment to tackling health inequalities. During the pandemic, I focused our webinars on issues like digital exclusion and the unequal impact of COVID-19 on mental health, and shaped our conference on “How can we dismantle health inequity together?” In advance, I published a blog “We need to talk about race,” explaining our commitment to tackling racial inequalities in our organisation and work, and outlining the steps we were taking to walk the talk.
Internally, I initiated our Be the Change Inclusion Action Plan in order to address racial inequalities in healthcare and health status, as well as in our organisation, coalition and the voluntary sector. This culminated in the recent publication of our report Be the Change: How to tackle racial inequalities in health and care charities, which highlights our members’ insights in different areas, and offers ideas and practical tools to take action. I could not feel prouder or more privileged to have co-led this work alongside our Senior Policy Advisor, Pavi Brar, and for this to be my parting report at National Voices.
Since my return from maternity leave earlier this year, I have worked hard to get up to speed with another massive shift in health and care – system transformation. I steered our work on an NHS Confederation-led project, Systems for Change, that shows how effective system working enables progress on social and economic development. I also maintained our focus on health inequalities – this time in the context of the cost of living crisis – chairing a panel at NHS Confed Expo with Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, about developing effective partnerships to reduce the health implications of the rising cost of living.
Other key projects
I’ve also provided strategic oversight to several key projects, in particular our partnership with BRACE, based at the University of Birmingham, which conducts rapid evaluations of promising new health services, and our work centring the experiences of those living with obesity in order to contribute to more person-centred, equitable and inclusive policies in this area too.
I have also supported Tessa Fulton, our Policy Manager, who leads our work as joint coordinator, together with NAVCA, of the VCSE Health and Wellbeing Alliance, a partnership between voluntary sector representatives and the health and care system, funded by the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and the UK Health Security Agency. Its mission is to enable policy, commissioning and provider organisations to design services and support based on the needs of people and communities who face disadvantage and exclusion.
National Voices’ first job share
Internally, I pioneered National Voices’ first job-share alongside the brilliant Sharon Brennan, showing that people with caring responsibilities and those living with health conditions can excel in senior leadership roles – if inclusive adjustments are made. I also welcomed the wonderful Jacob Lant as Chief Executive. I leave you in their safe hands. Sharon will continue leading on our policy work, and I thank you in advance for all the encouragement and support you give her through this transition.
I am sure there is more I could have done – and certainly more I could have done better – even more inclusively, collaboratively, deeply, quickly. My colleagues will tell you that this dinosaur could definitely do with some tech upskilling! On a more serious note, one thing that continues to trouble me is the extent to which policy changes meaningfully, tangibly, improve people’s experiences of health and care services – whether the pretty words on a page translate to actual changes in behaviour, attitudes, treatment and experiences. And when changes do happen, how we can know whether it was our work that led to them as opposed to other factors. But I’ll have to take those thoughts away with me…
Time to take a breath
I am leaving now to take a breath after four intense years of work and personal challenges, to hopefully be a less stressed parent, and to return to work in reproductive rights campaigning.
Thank you to my lovely colleagues in the National Voices staff team, as well as to our Trustees, members, system partners and colleagues across the health and care sector for your support and allyship over the years. It’s been quite the ride at National Voices – and I appreciate your being there alongside me.
Hopefully our paths will continue to cross as we all work to make what matters to people matter in health and care.
Dr Rebecca Steinfeld is the outgoing Joint Director of Policy and External Affairs at National Voices, a role she shared with Sharon Brennan. During her time at National Voices, Rebecca was responsible for influencing key decision-makers across the health agencies, and she worked to embed inclusive, person-centred health and care, and to ensure our members’ priorities, and the experiences of the communities they serve shape policies. Her experiences span policy and campaigns work and academic research. Prior to joining National Voices, she worked at Maternity Action and co-chaired the Maternity Voices Partnership at Chelsea & Westminster NHS Foundation Trust. She also co-founded the successful Campaign for Equal Civil Partnerships. She holds a PhD in Politics from the University of Oxford.