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Hospital chief talks about pride in local reaction to covid and his soft spot for rescue animals

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Brendan Brown, chief executive of Airedale NHS Hospital Foundation Trust

“For me, it’s all about our people,” says Brendan Brown

As chief executive of Airedale NHS Hospital Foundation Trust and Partnership Lead for the Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven Partnership, you might say Brendan Brown has his hands full leading one of the biggest healthcare providers in the area but he likes to keep his feet firmly on the ground.

“For me, it’s still all about the people,” says the recently-turned 50-year-old, who is still a registered nurse, which is where he started his career in the health service.

“People are at the centre of the service we deliver. When I became a nurse, it wasn’t just the job I loved, it was the fact I was in a profession surrounded by people from all different backgrounds – that’s what kept me as part of the NHS for so long.”

He’s incredibly proud of the response by everyone in healthcare to the Covid-19 pandemic, dubbing it a “sterling reaction”.

“Covid has enabled us to see the best and worst of times. There have been some real tragedies, of course. No-one has ever faced something of this magnitude before but it's also brought out the best in people and I think many have gone above and beyond, both in their personal and professional lives.

“It’s been a sterling reaction, with everyone pulling together and certainly the University of Bradford have been extremely supportive of us throughout the length of this pandemic, providing PPE, mobilising staff, deploying students, it truly was a working partnership and that’s something I’m immensely proud of.”

Brendan’s route into healthcare wasn’t exactly straightforward. Hailing from a large Irish Catholic family, he spent a good deal of his youth on farms in the west of Ireland, which is where his parents are from, although they actually met and brought him up in England (despite, coincidentally, being from neighbouring villages in their home country).

Before training to be a nurse, he worked as a market stall trader in Leicester, in a butcher’s shop and spent two years working for Tesco. It was a suggestion from one of his childhood friends that set him on the path he now treads.

His background is in acute medicine, specialising in palliative care and oncology and he holds a Masters with Distinction from the University of Nottingham. Once in the profession, he gradually worked his way up, taking on managerial roles, although even now he says he’s “still a clinician at heart.”

He moved to Yorkshire just over four years ago and was previously Executive Director of Nursing/Deputy Chief Executive at both Calderdale & Huddersfield and Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trusts, taking up his current roles in 2018. He is also the Senior Responsible Officer for workforce across the Bradford and Airedale district, and for the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership Board.

Outside of work, one of his personal passions is taking care of a growing menagerie of rescue animals, including three donkeys, a dog and three chickens.

Commenting on his award from the university, he said: “I was incredibly touched to be considered for it, it means a lot to me on a personal level and an honour to be awarded.”

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