Spotlight on… Gabrielle Richards
Gabrielle Richards has worked at SLaM for 20 years and currently heads up the Occupational Therapy (OT) team. Occupational therapists work with people to develop their skills and confidence in everyday life. SLaM offers a wide choice of creative activities that give people the opportunity to rekindle existing talents, learn from new experiences and build their confidence on their path to recovery.
What is the name of your role?
Professional Head of Occupational Therapy and Lead for Social Inclusion and Recovery. It’s quite a long title, but it does pretty much sum up what I do!
Which part of South London and Maudsley do you work in?
My role is Trust-wide, but I am actually based at the Maudsley.
What does a typical day look like for you?
My day varies enormously. I do attend quite a lot of meetings; anything from a meeting looking at developing peer support workers across the Trust, to chairing the Nutrition Steering Group, to the Trust-wide Quality Delivery group. I supervise a lot of the senior OT staff, so keep my finger on the pulse of OT within the Trust. I also line manage our small specialist physiotherapy, dietetics, clinical exercise and welfare services. I also spend time with people who use our services, working out how we can be more recovery-oriented in our approaches.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy the fact that every day is different. I could be sitting at my desk one day updating a policy, and the next running a study day for newly qualified occupational therapists. I enjoy the people contact and knowing lots of folk across the Trust. I enjoy developing new initiatives and seeing them come to fruition.
Which part of your job is most challenging?
One of the most challenging things is still trying to provide a quality service when money is tight. Sitting on the Trust Executive, I am in the privileged position of having an oversight of the big challenges. I feel very responsible to continue to support staff on the ground to do a good job. SLaM has come a long way to be so much more recovery-focused in the services it provides, but we still have a way to go. It’s been great to be part of that journey.
What is your favourite thing about South London and Maudsley?
My favourite thing about SLaM is the people. I’ve worked here a long time (as have many of my colleagues) but I am still amazed at how there is still scope for innovation and support for new things. And that is down to the people and their commitment and enthusiasm.
What’s your proudest achievement in your career to date?
I would have to say the development of the Recovery College (a service that provides a range of educational courses and resources for people with experience of mental illness, to improve understanding of mental health). I love being an OT and can think of lots of things we have done and continue to do OT-wise in SLaM, but the single biggest thing I can say I had a hand in creating is the Recovery College. I could talk about it for a long time, but I would just recommend people check out the website and it will demonstrate how proud I am.
What do you like to do outside of work in your free time?
I spend a lot of time ferrying my daughter to her various activities. I love to cook and entertain, and I am also part of an obligatory book club.
Name one thing that the service users might not know about you.
I’m a pretty open book and most of the service users who I work with know me well enough. They may not know, however, that I got to the rank of a Queen’s Guide.
If you could only take one thing to a desert island, what would it be?
I asked my husband about this and he said I should say a piano, as I have been on about learning properly for years and I do tinker a bit. It just doesn’t seem very practical!
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