Hi Councillor Mulherin, thank you for meeting with me. I just wanted to chat with you about Health and Wellbeing. There is a new board, strategy and focus for Leeds – what are we going to see happen and what does it all mean? But first of all, as Executive Board Member and Chair for Health and Wellbeing, how are you enjoying your role?
I am really enjoying my role. There are some massive opportunities around health. It’s a challenging position but I am very realistic about the enormity of the tasks involved.
Yes, I can imagine it is. Why did you want to become a councillor?
I have always been a supporter for the Labour party. I started as a campaigner and became the chair of Lead Young Labour in 2008. I have experience of other elected member positions and decided why not throw my hat into the ring and become a councillor.
Definitely, that makes sense. If you could describe ‘health and wellbeing’ in one sentence, what would you say?
Start to end supporting people, mentally, physically and emotionally. To improve the happiness for people of Leeds and better financial security, for example living without anxiety and being able to support our children. Contributing to the overall ambition to be the Best City for Health and Wellbeing and helping more residents of Leeds to be healthier, happier and live longer.
Why do we need a health and wellbeing board – what difference will it make for the people of Leeds?
The main advantage of having a Health and Wellbeing Board is that all the vital partners are signed up and working together for the same reason, to improve the lives of the poorest people the fastest. On the Health and Wellbeing Board we have GPs, NHS England, Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), Healthwatch, Council directors, Councillors and third sector organisations so investment decisions, ideas for change and any impact of health and wellbeing for Leeds are agreed at the board. At the public meetings we have an open forum for questions to be presented to the board, this way we hear the voice of the public. All the board have a chance to answer the question which can show a difference in opinion, but in the end the outcome is the same, what is best for the children, young people, older people and all our residents in Leeds.
So anyone can attend the meeting?
Yes there is some time set aside at the beginning of the meeting for an open forum.
Is everyone impacted by health and wellbeing? Are some of our Leeds residents more of a priority than others?
Definitely everyone is affected but some people are more of a priority than others. We are trying to narrow the gap of the poorest communities because it is a proven social deprivation – money, short lived lives, long term health conditions, infant mortality is worse in poorer communities.
Why did you want to work in health and wellbeing?
I was particularly interested in health and wellbeing and becoming the chair because I suppose, from a human perspective, I have older parents and children and want to help make life better for them and the people of Leeds. It was a new role and with public health joining the council I felt it would be a big opportunities for Leeds and also for myself.
What experiences do you bring to the role that can make a positive difference to the people of Leeds?
I think I bring a variety of experience. I, like many people have been a patient and I am a parent. I have always been surrounded by health and wellbeing; my mum was a nurse, my grandmother was a midwife; so maybe it was destiny I was always going to work in this area.
What are the priorities of the Health and Wellbeing Board?
The board has four top commitments:
1 – Support people to choose healthy lifestyles
2 – Ensure everyone will have the best start in life
3 – Improve people’s mental health and wellbeing in the city
4 – Help older people maintain independence to live safely in their own home
What do you think are the main challenges in delivering the health and wellbeing strategy?
I think we all know the first one, public sector budgets. Also as a partnership board it will be to maintain agreement between everyone, we need to work together for Leeds and keep that as the focus.
When do you expect the residents of Leeds will see the benefits of the Health and Wellbeing strategy and how will these materialise?
Like any changes there are short term and long term benefits. The majority of the benefits will be long term because of the nature of the work. The biggest ambition is to improve the health and wellbeing of the poorest people, this is definitely not a short term goal but things like the best start in life (0-2) through mothers postnatal and parental bonding can start now and changes will show fairly quickly. Likewise, where choosing healthy lifestyles is concerned, there has been so much work already done, we will start to see the evidence of people being inactive to active within a few years.
What are you most looking forward to over the next 2 years? Not talking about holidays!
Yes I was thinking about that. One thing I am looking forward to is working together to make the right decision to invest, so we have less duplication, more information sharing and better patient experience.
If you could wave a magic wand what would you hope the board and strategy could change the most for people in Leeds?
Now that is a hard one, but if I have to choose the main thing for me would be ‘mental health’ – to reduce the stamp and stigma within the city around mental ill health. Not being afraid to talk about it and better understanding for everyone such as families, employers and friends. Also, better support and recovery from mental ill health such as therapies not medication.
How does Health and Wellbeing fit in with Better Lives?
There are massive links between the two and elements of the strategy of what we aim to achieve are closely linked and focused around independence and choice. We are working together to improve services and reduce the financial pressure around health partnerships and social care when the two work hand in hand and can share resource which improves patient experience – less hospital and care home services will be needed.
That’s the end of the interview. Thank you so much for your time I’m looking forward to seeing the strategy take shape, some exciting but very challenging times ahead.