This week we spoke to Victoria Miles-Gale, our Head of Patient Experience. Victoria is also the chair of our LGBT+ network, which recently oversaw the launch of rainbow NHS badges at our Trust and a special event to mark Pride month.
Lives: Victoria lives in Rainham with wife Kelly, 45, who also works for the NHS as a change and improvement specialist at Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals. Victoria has a daughter Jessica, 24, son Jack, 23, and granddaughter Scarlett, four.
And: Victoria and Kelly met when they started secondary school aged just 11 and were best friends for years before their lives went in different directions – only for Facebook to reunite them years later!
Tell us a bit more about your involvement in our LGBT+ network
I started going around six months ago. Often it just wasn’t well attended; it needed someone to drive it.
I went to an LGBT+ conference at the Royal Free and found it really inspirational; it was where I heard Jay Hulme, who spoke at our Trust, tell his experiences of transitioning. I came back with lots of ideas, one was the rainbow badges and pledges. I worked with Claire O’Toole, our Head of Inclusion, to launch them at our Trust and they really took off.
That showed that there was an appetite here that we hadn’t realised. The badges have been instrumental in starting conversations, and people educating themselves about the LGBT+ community.
Being the chair is scary. It’s important we keep momentum going after Pride and I feel responsible for that. I really want to succeed and have a network which supports our LGBT+ staff and patients.
We’ve got lots to do. We know from our staff survey that equality and diversity is an issue, but we’ve not drilled down into it. Although we have data on BME staff from the WRES report, we have nothing like that for LGBT+ staff.
We need to understand what it’s like working in our Trust when you’re LBGT+, does it make a difference?
Very few people state they’re LGBT+ on our staff survey and while no one should be forced to reveal information they’re not comfortable with, we should be able to be open about who we are.
If we’re more open, and visibly so, it’ll make it much easier for our patients to be open with us too.
I regularly attend Trust board and high level meetings to speak; however, talking about LGBT+ issues is very different, because I’m talking about myself.
Can you share your own story with us?
I came out when I was 40. I always knew something was there, but growing up, I followed the same path everyone else did. When my friends got a boyfriend, so did I. There was no big drama and I wasn’t unhappy, but I wasn’t happy either.
My wife and I were best friends through secondary school, drifting apart when we were 18. We reconnected via Facebook when we were 30 and picked up our friendship exactly where we left off, seeing each other weekly, going out for dinner and to concerts.
However, I started to realise my feelings for her were different and luckily she felt the same. We got together and that was it. It’s a bit of fairy tale, it just took a long time to get there!
We’ve been together for five years and got married last year, after she proposed to me at Leeds Castle on our one-year anniversary.
Tell us more about your role at our Trust
As Head of Patient Experience I look after four teams: Patient Experience, Voluntary Services, Chaplaincy and Bereavement. The main part of my role is ensuring we’re listening to the patient voice and improving the care we provide.
I’ve been at our Trust for almost nine years. I started as PALS manager; then took over complaints too. I’ve been in my current role three years.
One of my favourite things is to go out on our wards and talk to our patients and visitors. The feedback is priceless; a patient may say everything’s been great, so it’s about understanding what it was we did that was great.
One of my proudest achievements was being instrumental in Queen’s becoming the first hospital to be awarded the Deaf Charter Mark. I’m the lead for ensuring all our information is accessible which I’m passionate about; not just for inclusion purposes but for the safety of our patients too.
What about your career before?
I started work at 16 as a secretary for a construction firm which was developing Canary Wharf and Docklands – it wasn’t the city as we know it today.
It was terrifying at first as there were 500 to 1,000 men and just me and one other female secretary on site, however, everyone was respectful and looked after you. I learnt to be resilient and hold my own! They were huge projects and I was left to my own devices running the site office – so I just got on with it.
I stayed at home while my children were young and then started working in the NHS at 28, for Barking and Dagenham PCT. I did leave once to try working for the local authority but that was a disaster – we think we’ve got red tape!
Before here I was complaints and incidents manager at West Essex PCT.
What do you get up to outside work?
I’m a shopaholic, and Dolly Parton is my idol! I’ve seen her live a couple of times and she’s incredible.
I love spending time with my granddaughter – she’s the light of my life.
Other than that we like to travel, although I’m not too adventurous, we also enjoy cooking, eating out and socialising.
And our favourite question of In Conversation With…do you have any pets?
We’ve got two Cavalier King Charles spaniels, sisters Millie and Cleo, they’re 13, and a dysfunctional cat called Dolly.