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funding to support increased specialist training to improve their skills at mobile trauma care. “For example, we now have 100% doctor cover on all missions – that’s doctors on board every flight, a significant improvement. By carefully planning our bases, the aircraft get to patients within ten minutes, and we can demonstrate through data that the extra investment in training makes a difference to saving lives and in lengths of patient-stay in hospitals. All this has happened because being independent means we can choose where to put our investment.” A crucial recent investment decision was a £37m procurement plan for a new fleet of helicopters. “Now we’re independent, we’ve made our own financial decision to buy one aircraft and lease two. By year seven of this plan, when the aircraft is bought, overheads significantly reduce, and yet the helicopter will still have another ten years of life. This sort of

strategic decision-making will help to secure long-term financial stability. “That was a commercial buying decision we just weren’t able to make in the past. Most charities these days say they need strong business acumen without losing their original charitable objectives. That’s what I meant by the need to bring in commercial skill-sets, people able to manage money, with confidence to know where to cut and where to draw income. “Basically, I’m talking about control. I came in with a fresh pair of eyes from the independent sector, with experience of having run my own business, meeting challenges and making decisions you have to make every day, and all the stresses that come with that. I want value for money, I want to drive growth and I’m a strategic planner – looking forward to sustain the charity in three, five, seven years and beyond.”Although displaying hard-nosed

INSIGHT

commercial skills, Hanna also admits to learning an enormous amount: “It’s been fantastic in terms of teaching me about the increasing demand for air ambulance services across the UK, and the great government interest there is in emergency services collaborating. We are now well-placed to support the police, the ambulance service and hospitals in the work that we do.” As well as her main job, Hanna now sits on the board of the national Air Ambulance Association, helping to raise the national profile of the whole UK network. But what drives her to continue with such hard work, especially after being so ill herself last year? “Delivery,” she declares. “Doing a good job, making a difference and then evidencing it. I’ve learned how well loved this charity is, and how generous-hearted people are towards it. I love my job with a passion and, importantly, I’m happy here.” n

How Hanna Sebright’s career took flight After an early childhood living in RAF barracks, at 14 Hanna joined Monmouth Comprehensive in South Wales. She then studied for a degree in Social Policy and Administration at Kent University. In 1984, she joined British Airways as a member of long-haul, 747 cabin crews based at Heathrow. “I joined to travel, and was desperate to explore the world,” she says. “It was a fantastic finishing school and education.” By 1991, Hanna “had an urge to share life with somebody” and got married, having two children by the mid-1990s. Her second career began part-time at the Salisbury Playhouse, working front of house, and she was then recruited to the nearby private New Hall Hospital, where she led the marketing of a multi-million pound redevelopment. This went well and led to a new role as business development director of The Berkshire Independent Hospital. Here Hanna worked on the hospital’s referral problems, helping to improve GPs’ knowledge of specialist services, and introducing patients’ information forums. She also helped launch the Reading Shoulder Unit, now an internationally renowned orthopaedic centre. In March 2000, Hanna took on a senior health consultant role with the Atomic Energy Authority in Harwell. But she felt the pull of business and quickly moved to the Real Creative Group as business development director. This start-up company specialised in marketing, communications and digital media, and thanks to Hanna’s background picked up NHS contracts to provide real-time information for patients on screens in the waiting rooms of GPs’ surgeries. In 2003, Real Creative was sold to ScreenFX, becoming its HealthFX subsidiary, and Hanna expanded health communications networks nationally. The only problem was that the software and screens were “phenomenally expensive”, and she found herself constantly seeking more investment. “Lots of opportunities,” recalls Hanna, “but not enough cash.” The result was a management buy-out of HealthFX, Hanna securing investment to create Electronic Health Media Ltd. This company had a major breakthrough with a Department of Health campaign called ‘Choices for health’, a series of disease awareness and health education messages, backed by major pharmaceutical companies. One success was flu vaccines for the over 65s. Additional investment was needed and at this stage Hanna was approached by Alan Sugar’s Amscreen to buy the business, and by 2008 became the managing director of Amscreen Healthcare. But things quickly went wrong. “My focus was health education communications,” says Hanna. “I was working with the Department of Health, PCTs, GPs and so on, driving really important health messages. But for Amscreen, it was a communications network – their own software and their own screens, which made things cheaper. After the company handover, I just wanted to get back into health.” There was a big fall-out and a controversial legal battle with Alan Sugar and his directors. Hanna won’t discuss this, other than to say it was “a professional fall-out, settled out of court”.

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BUSINESS QUARTER |SPRING 13

BQ WEST MIDLANDS issue 1  
BQ WEST MIDLANDS issue 1