I’m helping put a man on the moon, Mr. President

Trafford General Hospital.

Richard Dagnall, one of the newest members of our team, reflects on his first three months at CLAHRC and tells us about what being part of the NHS means to him.


Back in 2003 when I studied computer programming, the first computer programme I was taught to write was a very simple one which contained all the fundamentals needed to write code. This first programme was called “Hello World”, which simply displayed the same phrase on a computer screen. I found the best way to learn a programming language was by writing programmes, so I hope that similarly writing my first blog will also teach me the fundamentals of writing one.

I’ve worked in the NHS all my working life and I’ve seen a lot of changes in different areas in the country. I’ve seen primary care trusts cease to exist, clinical commissioning groups start up and radical changes in regional control. It’s a particularly difficult time to be working in the NHS at the moment with staff shortages, redundancies looming, organisational changes, the junior doctors’ strike and financial issues affecting trusts. But despite this, the staff and the public still support the NHS.

John F. Kennedy

President John F. Kennedy.

For me, working in the NHS is not about having a reason to get out of bed or just about getting a wage at the end of the month, but being part of something much bigger. During a visit to the NASA space centre in 1962, President Kennedy noticed a janitor carrying a broom. He interrupted his tour, walked over to the man and said, “what are you doing?” The janitor responded, “I’m helping put a man on the moon, Mr. President.” I think this is much like working in the NHS: no matter how big or small you think your job is it all makes a difference to patient care.

I’ve been working at CLAHRC since the middle of October 2015 and have overcome the new job jitters of remembering everyone’s name and getting my commute right so that I’m in work on time. Having now had time to see the wide range of projects that the team is undertaking in order to make a difference to patient care, I think the best word to describe CLAHRC is ‘diverse’. I’m working with a varied workforce of academic, clinical, administrative and project staff based at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, as well as the staff working on projects in primary and secondary care. I’ve worked at a few different organisations in the NHS and I’m always surprised at the breadth of experience people bring to their roles, but none more so than at CLAHRC. I am currently preparing to host my first educational workshop for CLAHRC, as well as implementing a range of other projects to bring about some interesting potential changes to 7 day access to primary care across Greater Manchester.  

Aneurin Bevan

This statue of Aneurin Bevan stands in Cardiff, around 30 miles from his birth place in Tredegar.

Manchester has historically been a place for change in the NHS. On 5 July 1948, the NHS was unveiled to the nation by then Health Secretary Aneurin Bevan. When Bevan opened the Park Hospital (now known as Trafford General Hospital) he said, “we now have the moral leadership of the world”. 68 years later the eyes of the nation are again on Manchester as the region embarks on Greater Manchester devolution. Though I’m not certain what this will mean for me and the work I do for the NHS, I know that it’s an exciting time to be working in both the NHS and in Manchester. My work at CLAHRC will support these plans and I’m hopeful that the projects and work streams that I will work on will bring about positive change in the NHS.

When people ask me why I work in the NHS I tell them about how hard it is and how much time and effort I put into my work. To paraphrase John F. Kennedy “we choose to do these things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard”. I’m not saying that we’re trying to put a man on the moon, but it is hard to work in a system that is understaffed and underfunded. I expect that my work here at CLAHRC will be demanding but will be a challenge that I hope brings good rewards, both for the staff members involved in these projects and the patients whose care we strive to improve.