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Home E Featured News E Meet Sarah McDonnell-Davies, NCL ICB Executive Director of Place

Meet Sarah McDonnell-Davies, NCL ICB Executive Director of Place


FollowiHeadshot of Sarahng Pride month in June, we sat down with our Executive sponsor for the NCL ICB’s LGBTQ+ Staff Network and Executive Director of Place, Sarah McDonnell-Davies to discuss her role, the formulative experiences of being a woman and gay in the workplace, progress made, and what’s still to do.





Tell us a bit about your background and how you ended up in North Central London

I moved to London almost 20 years ago and joined an organisation called OPM – an employee-owned social enterprise that was based in Camden. We worked with government, public services and the voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors, delivering research, engagement, evaluation, policy development and organisational design. We also worked pro-bono with local communities.

It was a fascinating job – I’d find myself at the Department of Health one day and an eco-community in South Wales the next. It was also a formative period. I learnt how to pay attention to detail, see different perspectives and try things I thought were beyond me.

Being young, gay, and a woman has played into my workplace experience. We all need to remember protected characteristics are ‘protected’ for a reason. I faced everything from gentle ‘banter’ to outright disrespect from certain clients.

What mitigated this was being willing to challenge them and being backed (implicitly and explicitly) to do so. We were a strong team who believed in mutual support and collective success. It taught me a lot about what matters at work – values, collegiality, attentiveness, appreciation – and during my time there I went from junior researcher to non-executive board member.

Having worked alongside it for many years, I joined the NHS formally in 2016. The NHS is fascinating – Nye Bevan (Minister of Health from 1945 to 1951) achieved one of the most impressive legislative feats in history.

NHS values stand the test of time, and the NHS offers some of the best value and outcomes in the world. It is one of the world’s largest organisations rivalling international corporations, but with a purpose and population that requires a fundamentally different approach.


Tell us more about your role

I’m truly passionate about it and about the work of NCL ICB. Every day we get to apply our skills in analysis, problem resolution, improvement and systems thinking, design and leadership. It’s challenging but you are a part of something really significant.

As Executive Director of Place, I focus on Primary Care, Medicines, Proactive Care and Long Term Conditions, our Borough Integration Units and local partnerships, Prevention and Vaccinations, Pathways, and our GP website.

My passion is local care. These services and professionals support 95% of all patient contacts with the NHS but have not had the level of national or local attention and support that Trust services have. This is starting to change as our focus shifts to population health and proactive care. It’s great to work in an ICB so deeply committed to this approach and to addressing the challenges that sectors like general practice, dentistry and pharmacy face.


What are you most proud of at the NCL Integrated Care Board?

Our teams! Amazing work has continued throughout a really difficult period. We are – and are seen to be – innovative, creative, practical, collegiate, and adept problem solvers. We are attracting attention in London and nationally in areas such as general practice commissioning, long term conditions, estates, and workforce, and rightfully so. This gives everyone the opportunity to showcase their work and to experience different professional worlds.

I am also the Executive sponsor for the LGBTQ+ Staff Network. With support from passionate colleagues, the Networks has undertaken important research, listened to colleagues, set up events, talks and socials, and networked with provider peers. We are thinking now about how we engage a wider group of LGBTQ+ staff and how we capitalise on the allyship we feel from colleagues. I am so proud to be a part of this community, so supporting this Staff Network really matters to me.


Did you see anything that really inspired you during Pride this year?

The British Museum runs a volunteer-led tour on a very regular basis. This tour, called ‘Desire, love, identity’ highlights LGBTQ+ artifacts in the museum’s collection.

LGBTQ+ history is human history. Political and religious battles surrounding LGBTQ+ communities mean everything from individual stories and artefacts, to entire periods of our history have been unrecorded, suppressed or destroyed. But in this tour, the British Museum highlights the pieces they have – dating back to 450 BC – that record and celebrate our global history and culture.

We cannot forget that many people around the world are living with repression, abuse and criminalisation. We have come a long way to overcoming these issues in Britain – but are still far from achieving the true equality, respect, and safety our communities and families deserve. Having national institutions like the British Museum supporting this journey is heartwarming.


Keep an eye for more stories from North Central London Integrated Care System (NCL ICS) staff and projects on our website.