The voice of patients is to be heard throughout New Zealand with Graeme Norton stepping up to a national role, but it means he is stepping down as chairman of the Hawke's Bay Health Consumer Council.
The council provides a consumer perspective and advice to Hawke's Bay District Health Board's (HBDHB) board and Health Hawke's Bay so they can better align services with the needs of the community.
The council reports directly to HBDHB chief executive Dr Kevin Snee and presents a report to monthly board meetings, where it has speaking rights on all issues.
HBDHB chairman Kevin Atkinson said the Consumer Council was a success because of Mr Norton's guidance when it was set up in 2013.
"What we have seen through the work of Graeme and his team is there are some real benefits in the work that they have done and [it has] the flowed through into decisions the board has made."
Mr Norton is a founder of 3R Group, an award-winning Hawke's Bay business that operates nationally and specialises in recycling problematic waste. He stepped back from day-to-day management so he could give back to the community, which he will continue to do as he transfers several years of experience to other district health boards.
He recently became the establishment chairman for Health Consumer Councils of New Zealand.
"Hawke's Bay's wasn't the first consumer council to be created but it is one of the best. It has essentially become Ministry of Health policy that DHBs have consumer councils. About 12 of the 20 DHBs have got them and the rest are on their way."
Prior to the Hawke's Bay Health Consumer Council, consumers were represented across several statutory advisory committees such as the Community Public Health Advisory Committee, the Hospital Advisory Committee and the Disability Services Advisory Committee.
"Our consumer representatives on those committees were generally pretty frustrated with the way things were, the problem being that they only met once a quarter for half a day and mostly it was consumer members catching up on the last three months of reports from the system as to what was happening or had happened, most of which the majority of other members around the table already knew because they were either board members or clinical members," he said.
Mr Norton won the Hawke's Bay Health Sector Leadership Achievement Award in 2015 for his voluntary roles of with the Consumer Council, the Urgent Care Alliance and Hawke's Bay Diabetes leadership team as well as membership of several other advisory bodies. He was praised for keeping the voice of patients at the forefront of the DHB's sweeping Transform and Sustain programme. Currently he has a national role advising on community pharmacies, based on successful Hawke's Bay trials.
His service in the health sector started when he suffered diabetes three years ago "and became a passionate advocate for patient-centred care'".
Nominations for both an independent chair and new members for the Hawke's Bay Health Consumer Council close on June 26.