In Conversation With...Paul Thorp
We know there are lots of very interesting people in our Trust, whether through your work, your interests or your hobbies outside work. We want to get to know you and share your story.
This week we spoke to Paul Thorp, an occupational therapist by background who’s now one of our Red2Green Transformation Leads.
Lives: In Saffron Walden with wife Helen, 32, and kids Isabella, two, and 10-month-old Leo
And: It was when Paul’s college tutor suggested he get an office job which didn’t need a degree that spurred him onto a career in healthcare.
How did you decide to become an occupational therapist?
I wanted to be a footballer when I was a kid as I loved it – I played four to five times a week and was part of the Norwich Academy, although I never played for the first team.
At school I was into history, and really loved sport and human biology. I knew I didn’t want to do a nine-to-five desk job so I considered a few things, being a teacher or something in sport.
I was unsure so I stayed in college for an extra year, which helped to improve my grades. My tutor told me I should work for Norwich Union (an insurance company, now Aviva), as I wouldn’t need a degree for that.
She obviously had no confidence in me and that drove me to prove her wrong. I knew about physio from my involvement in sport, so I looked in physiotherapy and occupational therapy.
It was tough to decide between them so I applied to the University of East Anglia for both, and was accepted for both. In the end I chose to train as an occupational therapist as I felt it was more diverse. I like the holistic mind-set and approach of occupational therapy, looking at the person as a whole and how you can help them to maximise their independence.
Tell us about your career so far
I started working for the West Essex Trust, in acute and community settings, including mental health. There was a huge rotation so I got lots of experience very quickly.
It was also where I met my wife, at the Princess Alexandria Hospital where she was a student nurse. There was a night out at the end of the placement where we got chatting.
After three years I moved to Barts where I started to get involved in research and setting up new services.
I came here in 2015 for a more senior role. I’d heard good things about our Trust and found the team really warm and friendly. I started in our medical therapies team and I’ve also worked as a clinical specialist in trauma and orthopaedics.
I moved to our Red2Green team when it was set up in August 2018 because I’m passionate about innovation and getting our patients home as quickly as possible. Hospital is not the place for assessments, and I really like the ‘home first’ mind-set.
How does being in our Red2Green team compare to your previous role?
It’s so different. I do miss seeing patients, however, I know I’m still giving value to them, just in a different way.
Instead of looking at one at a time, we’re looking at strategic, specific service improvements that improve care for all our patients. Stepping out of my clinical role has allowed me to focus on that.
There‘s no typical day; some days we’re out accompanying on ward rounds; then we’re looking at how we can reduce length of stay; and when we have our team meetings we get to come up with crazy and creative ideas, like changing the lyrics of 12 Days of Christmas to fit getting our patients home for Christmas!
We want everyone to get involved too, if you have an idea to improve something, share it! Talk to your manager, talk to us; just don’t keep it to yourself.
Sometimes, what seems small can come out of a simple conversation and make a huge difference to our patients. It was only by talking to colleagues that we found out our amputee patients were waiting weeks for a wheelchair, now we’re able to provide them instantly so those patients can start their rehabilitation and get home quicker.
What’s your advice to our teams for getting our patients home and improve flow across our hospitals?
The most important thing is pre-planning. We should already be looking at our patients and seeing who can be discharged.
There should also be zero tolerance for delays – if something is holding up your patient getting home, escalate it.
Review your patients daily at board rounds, and make sure everything they need is happening for them. Put yourself in their shoes, would you want to wait extra days before you could go home?
What are you most proud of in your career?
I was in a junior position working with a palliative patient who was close to dying and really wanted to go home.
She’d made it clear she didn’t want any medication or equipment, she just wanted to go home to die but her doctor and the ward staff said no. Her family begged me to help make it happen as I was the only one listening to them, so I ordered her transport.
She was so happy to get home, she had champagne with her family and died three hours later. If we didn’t get her home that day, she would have died in hospital, which wasn’t what she wanted.
The family were so appreciative. I’d put the patient first and it’s always stuck with me. I learned to fight for what I believe in, in the right way.
Finally, what do you like to get up to outside work?
I love exercise – and food! I’ve also got into road cycling over the last year and enjoy taking part in events called Sportives. I recently did one in Newmarket where there were 10,000 cyclists. There’s always a great atmosphere and as you’re cycling through beautiful countryside, I find them really relaxing and peaceful.
And I’m passionate about having a good work life balance. I think that’s so important to ensure I am performing my best at work. I like to switch off and have family time with the kids – Isabella is a mix of my wife and I, she’s strong-willed and has a zest for life, while Leo is really chilled.