New chapter in NHS chief Carole’s rags-to-riches story

SUFFOLK: Carole Taylor Brown’s story is worthy of a book or film.

From leaving home on her motorbike with just a cat on the back at the age of 17, she has had an amazing rise to the top.

Few working for her would realise that Mrs Taylor-Brown, who grew up in Hampshire and now earns in excess of �130,000, started life cleaning toilets.

Her first job in the public sector was as a junior clerk in Southampton City Council and she says it was through “hard work, support and drive” that she managed to get where she is today. Mrs Taylor-Brown, who has now worked in the public sector for 35 years, 14 of which were in health, said: “I never thought I would be in this position at this point of my career. You have got to have a lot of belief in yourself.

“Despite my double-barrelled name, I came from a normal family and went to state school. You can do it. You have to have aspirations and you have to believe in yourself.”

She has not had an easy time of it over the years – both personally and professionally.

With the government forced to cut back, Mrs Taylor-Brown has been at the helm when tough decisions have been made, including the loss of a few specialist services at Ipswich Hospital.

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Two stories, revealed exclusively by The Evening Star, gave her some of the biggest headaches of her career.

Firstly, we rallied the public against changes to heart attack care at Ipswich Hospital – and she was forced to admit mistakes had been made. The Star’s campaign has already been partly victorious – and that battle goes on.

Later she became the “fall-girl” in trying to explain why NHS Suffolk had bought a �500,000 farm to provide a car park for its burgeoning numbers of staff at its headquarters near Ipswich – a decision which had been made while she was on sick leave.

That decision is now firmly in perspective with the Government revealing it is scapping the county’s health trust altogether. Meanwhile, the NHS has ended up with a redundant farm on its list of most unusual properties and most peculiar buys.

Her cancer diagnosis in 2008 and subsequent spinal infection, which affected her mobility, devastated her, and it took all the strength she had to pick herself up and carry on.

Mrs Taylor-Brown, who is married to Nigel, lives in West Suffolk and has a 24-year-old daughter in Fran, added: “I love the job and I love the people I work with, but I have got to put my health first. The hours are long and the pressure is huge and I have got to think about what that means long term.

“It is not something I would have chosen to do at this time. With so much change, I would have wanted to see people through it. This decision had been taken earlier this year but I agreed to see through the change of government.

“I was shattered when my back went wrong because it meant I couldn’t do things I liked doing like horse riding. It took time to realise it but you can always do different things. After my illness, I thought about giving in. But I’m a very driven person and I felt passionately that I didn’t want to do a half job. Since I was 17, I have worked my socks off but being seriously ill made me re-think a lot of things.”

Mrs Taylor-Brown plans to work part-time doing consultancy work to see people through the changes happening all over the public sector in particular, but also hopes to enjoy plenty of downtime, which will consist of looking after her six rare breed pigs, as well as horses and dogs.

She says that after coming into a very tough job, which nobody wanted to take on, one of her highlights has been not only getting rid of the organisation’s �35m debt but changing people’s attitudes about what can be done.

Mrs Taylor-Brown said: “People in Suffolk deserve the very best care and getting the best for people in Suffolk has always been my passion.

“Staff and health professionals across the NHS in Suffolk are among the most professional and hard-working that I have come across. I have great confidence in them to continue their work to do the very best for people in Suffolk in these challenging financial times.

“This has been a tough decision for me but does give me the opportunity to restructure my life following the advice of my doctors, to have a better balance between my professional commitments and my personal time for rest, exercise and relaxation.”

Chairman Alastair McWhirter said: “Carole truly has done the very best for people in Suffolk. Her drive and leadership has helped the NHS in Suffolk to make some incredible achievements.

“The board and I are very sorry to lose her yet understand her decision to leave. We wish her all the very best for the future. She has done a remarkable job here in Suffolk and we look forward to building on that over the next few years.”

Mrs Taylor-Brown will leave NHS Suffolk at the end of September and the NHS shortly afterwards.

n See Opinion, page 6

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