Who is Tom Bell?
“We are the sum total of our experiences. Those experiences – be they positive or negative – make us the person we are, at any given point in our lives. And like a flowing river, those same experiences and those yet to come, continue to influence and reshape the person we are, and the person we become. None of us are the same as we were yesterday, nor will be tomorrow.”
Hello, my name is Tom Bell. I’m an escapee from radical religion, a once-homeless teenage punk who was expelled from school, a former NHS manager who lost my job after whistleblowing, and a long-time justice campaigner. What my life experiences have taught me is far more valuable than my master’s degrees. My journey has given me a unique set of insights that are particularly relevant to healthcare providers and public service organisations. I combine practical hands-on understanding with empathy, professional knowledge, and a systems thinking perspective. I use my lived experience creatively and sympathetically to help leaders at all levels develop and build wilfully aware cultures in which potential issues can be identified, understood, and addressed before they occur.
Culture is the key and leaders set the tone. Evidence shows that safe organisational cultures of trust, that facilitate learning, and practice non-judgemental accountability, in which people are supported to speak-up freely, encouraged to share their thinking, and where ethical blindspots are acknowledged, are essential to delivering effective, efficient, high-quality, safe services. Reducing harm, saving money, and retaining staff in the process.
"As the true method of knowledge is experiment, the true faculty of knowing must be the faculty which experiences. This faculty I treat of." - William Blake
Over the years I've developed an unrivaled awareness of the impact, the human, financial, and operational costs of wilful blindness and ethical fading upon organisations, their staff, and service users. I have seen how its presence affects people and performance, and how it harms the levels of trust within and around organisations and teams. I use the many scars I have acquired as a force for positive change and approach what is a sensitive topic from a place of empathy and sometimes humor. I've experienced the pressures present in large organisations, I know that poor cultures and systems can negate the best efforts of the most competent, decent, and well-intentioned of us.
As well as a budding author, I am a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management and a regular speaker at the Annual Patient Safety Congress. In recent years I have contributed to various national consultations including revisions to the UK National Action Plan for Open Government, a 2020 report by the charity JUSTICE (justice.org.uk) entitled When Things Go Wrong, and following my experience as an NHS whistleblower I was invited in 2018 to contribute to a review commissioned by the Health Secretary into the effectiveness of standards for NHS directors. Though I was initially devastated when I was forced out of my role in the NHS, I have learned to view what I did as a positive indicator of my character. And yes, I would do it again.
I have led numerous high-profile local, regional, and nationally significant projects in collaboration with public, private, and third-sector partners, including national technology projects for NHS England and Primary Care. I co-founded the first cross-sectoral health forum in England looking exclusively at the challenges of delivering health and care-related services in rural areas. And in a unique partnership with NHS Scotland, I was responsible for bringing telehealth to the NHS in Northern England.
I worked for many years in the area of enterprise development, informing the National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship, and sitting on the board of the Northern Leadership Academy. As a former business advisor with extensive experience and networks in all sectors, sitting at the intersection of seemingly disparate but ultimately related elements of knowledge enables me to continually develop, something I am incredibly grateful for.
I'm always on the lookout for connections and new knowledge, especially from those with different views and experiences. You can contact me using the form on this website, or connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn...