Peter Horn


The NHS means a great deal to me. I was born into the NHS but I recall my parents and grandparents telling what life was like before the NHS. My parents came from modest backgrounds and getting any sort of health care really was a lottery. I feel incredibly lucky.

At some stage I think all of my family have been touched by the NHS. My first serious encounter was at the age of eleven. After six weeks and two operations the NHS got me well. I didn’t realise how ill I was at the time and why my parents always looked worried when they came to visit. Looking back, I guess the NHS saved my life.

The thing that makes Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust a great organisation is its people. To be successful an organisation needs progressive and enlightened leadership and that is what we, as a Board, aim to provide. But at the end of the day the success of SCFT is first and foremost down to the commitment, skill and sheer hard work of its people. We mustn’t forget that.

There are so many great examples of NHS heroes. But I want to mention three very special people who have helped me over the years.

The first is Louis Smidt who was a great steward of the NHS. Louis came here from South Africa in the early 60s, started as a podiatrist and ended up as highly respected chief executive. He offered me my first management job in the NHS. He took a big risk. I had no experience but he said he thought there was some potential….  I worked with Louis for three years before getting a chief executive post and learnt so much from him. When it came to the CEO role Louis was a master; I, a willing apprentice. He continued to be a source of wise counsel and a good friend until he died a few years ago.

Then there is Murty. He was the guy who 10 years ago put my leg back together after I crushed the top of my tibia. Not only an outstanding surgeon but a great motivator too. He knew exactly what buttons to press to focus me on my recovery.  I will always be indebted to him. And then there was the district nurse who checked me out when I got home, and the OT who made sure I could get around the house safely, and the physios who got me walking again. A great reminder for me that healthcare is about teamwork.

Celebrating the 70th birthday of the NHS is really important. It is so easy to take such things for granted. The NHS was born in a time of significant hardship and danger, when there were many competing demands on very limited resources. It is needed today as much as it ever was. When I visit our services and see and hear of examples of the NHS enabling people to live better lives I am just pleased to be involved in this fabulous collective endeavour we call the NHS.