From the workplace
Dr Clair Pollard
How did you get started in your career?
I was always interested in psychology and in working with people; I come from a medical background and always wanted to work in a related field. Over the course of my undergraduate degree I became increasingly interested in the application of psychology to clinical problems and particularly to mental and physical health.
Following my undergraduate degree I worked as an Assistant Psychologist in a Neuropsychology Department with adults with acquired brain injury for two years before applying to the doctoral training in Clinical Psychology at UCL. I qualified as a Clinical Psychologist in 2003 and worked for 8 years in a Community Mental Health Team with adult patients with severe and enduring mental health problems such as psychosis or personality disorder. During this time I undertook further training in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT).
What are your typical daily responsibilities?
I currently work as a senior clinician in a primary care psychology service in Central London. Our service offers CBT interventions to adults with anxiety and depression. I am the Deputy Clinical Lead for the service which means I line manage the team, provide supervision and training and well as other managerial responsibilities and a limited amount of clinical work.
On a clinical day, I see patients for hourly sessions of CBT for anxiety and depression. I triage referrals, liaise with GPs and other referrers and provide supervision to junior staff, trainees and other therapists. In my management role I line-manage and develop other staff and plan and implement strategy for the team in relation to meeting targets around referrals, waiting times and recovery rates. Everyday is different and the work is varied and interesting.
How do you manage your disability at work?
I am a full-time wheelchair user so have to ensure that there is access everywhere I work. Working in NHS premises usually ensures that this is the case but there are occasionally obstacles. Access to kitchen facilities can often be a problem but in my main sites of work this has been remedied. I am happy to ask for help from colleagues if it is ever needed. I have a Westminster Disabled Parking Badge to allow me to park in Central London since the Blue Badge scheme does not operate here. I drive between work sites rather than use public transport as I have found this much more convenient. I sometimes have to manage patients perceptions or concerns about my disability and tend to approach this very openly which, as a therapist, I would do with any personal characteristic of mine which a patient was curious about. My staff are all very used to my disability and, although there were probably questions early on, I think now it is something that is rarely thought about.
How has your employer helped you to do well at your workplace?
Working for the NHS has huge advantages in this area. They are governed by very strict equality rules and take their responsibilities very seriously in terms of making work places accessible. There is good funding for this since premises need to be accessible for patients as well as for staff. They will also always try as much as possible to adapt a role to make it possible for someone with a disability. There are some exceptions to this (for example, I would be unable to take on a role that required me to visit patients at home regularly since most peoples houses would not be wheelchair accessible) but my experience has been largely positive. My advice would be that you need to be assertive, know your rights and be clear about what your needs are whilst also being flexible and reasonable about what is possible.
How would you describe the culture at the NHS
My understanding from colleagues and friends is that experiences vary widely across the NHS. It is a huge organisation and so it would not be possible for me to speak for all areas. However, my personal experience has been wholly positive and I would very much encourage people with disabilities to consider a career within the NHS.