In Conversation With…Vikki Butler, our divisional manager for anaesthetics and surgery
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.
So here is the next instalment of our new series: In Conversation With… introducing Vikki Butler, our divisional manager for anaesthetics and surgery.
Personal life: Lives with husband Andy
Having started her career as a physiotherapist, we spoke to Vikki to mark our Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) Week.
What’s your role at our Trust and how long have you been with us?
I’m divisional manager for anaesthetics and recently had surgery added to my portfolio. Together they make up a third of our clinical divisional business so it’s a big area of responsibility. I’ve been here for six years, which has flown by!
Tell us about your career, did you always want to be a physiotherapist?
Physiotherapy was actually my back-up choice, I originally wanted to be a doctor but I didn’t get the grades I needed at A-level. I knew I’d worked my socks off and there was no point in retaking them so I moved on.
I’d wanted to be a doctor as I liked science and people and it seemed a great career to combine the two. Physio was a great second choice as I was always fascinated with learning about the human body and anatomy.
I grew up in Buckinghamshire and was really keen to gain my independence and move to London. I studied at the University of East London. I was 18 and it was an intense course but I loved it and made lots of good friends.
My first job as a physiotherapist was at the North Middlesex Hospital and I’ve worked at several trusts across north London, I was at Barnet and Chase Farm Trust for ten years, working up to deputy head of therapies.
Why the move to our Trust?
I was headhunted by the then Chief Executive Averil Dongworth, who’d previously worked at Barnet and Chase Farm. She brought me on board as head of therapies.
Sue Harcourt and John Conaty, who were the therapy managers at the time, and I, had to find a way to adjust and work together. But it all worked out and we became great friends and we’re still in touch.
It’s Allied Health Professionals (AHP) week. Coming from that field yourself, what’s your view on how important this group is to the NHS?
They’re a hugely talented and diverse resource which I don’t think we’ve yet tapped into as much as we could.
Having Marilyn Hodges, a senior occupational therapist, as our Darzi Fellow, will help to give them a higher profile. As does Claire Bailey’s appointment, she’s a healthcare scientist and is our interim professional lead for AHPs, nursing and cancer and clinical services. It shows the depth of what AHP professions can offer.
Grouping our AHPs together gives them strength and a voice. But we must remember how diverse they are, what a radiographer does is very different to a speech and language therapist, or an occupational therapist.
Tell us about some memorable times from your career
When I worked at the Royal Free Hospital I looked after some of the survivors of the Admiral Duncan pub bomb, which went off in Soho in 1999. I’ve also worked with survivors of the Potters Bar rail crash.
Among them were people with very serious injuries and amputations, however, I’d worked in critical care and specialised in inpatients, so was used to managing patients with life changing injuries. Those skills helped me when looking after patients injured in major incidents.
Being a manager, do you miss the hands-on aspect of looking after patients?
I miss the instant gratification from patients, when you help them they love you for it and let you know it. They’re grateful for your support and when you’re one-on-one with a patient, it’s a very simple and direct relationship. As a manager I feel like I’m spinning a lot of plates!
How did you end up in management?
I did a diploma in management when I was at the Royal Free Hospital. I also did an MSc in healthcare management 2009, which was when I first met our Chief Operating Officer, Shelagh Smith.
Over my career, looking after teams, I’ve seen the number of people I’m responsible for grow, as with each promotion comes more responsibility and a larger, more diverse team. At Barnet and Chase Farm I had a team of around 100. That doubled when I came here. Then as divisional manager the team increased to around 700, which has now doubled since I took on a second division! I manage around £100 million of our Trust’s expenditure. A big change from my beginnings as a band 5 physio!
What do you like to do in your spare time?
My husband and I enjoy sailing, I’m a novice compared to him as he’s taken part in a round the world yacht race! We have our own boat and go away for holidays on it. This summer we went along the Brittany coast and we’ve just been to Cornwall. Staying on your own boat is a bit like caravanning on water, although it can be quite ‘tippy-uppy’ at times!
Getting out on the water is great for blowing away the cobwebs. It’s also very levelling – when you’re sailing with people it doesn’t matter who does what in the real world, you have to work as a team.
And we hear you’re also quite creative?
I don’t know why I studied science as I loved all the creative subjects and was very musical at school.
I met my husband when we were both playing sax in a senior dance band. It was part of the Aylesbury Music Centre.
I also like crafts like sewing, making cards and I did a course to learn to make a stained glass window. I made it boat themed and we’ve got it up in our stairway. Hobbycraft is one of my favourite places!
And our favourite question of In conversation with…..do you have any pets?
We don’t at the moment but we did have two cats, Del Boy and Rodney, who lived to the ripe old ages of 15 and 18!