On the 7th of October a group of 15 Sixth Form students from Newman School Carlisle, travelled from Carlisle to the North Lakes Hotel in Penrith to attend the People in Control conference organised by CLIC and Patient Memoirs. For most of the students this was the first time that they had experienced a conference and everyone was eager to see what it would be like.

The morning started with an introduction by Dr. Farhan Amin. He explained the value of the conference and made some interesting points that got our group thinking and ready for the morning ahead. He explained that the whole conference was being live streamed and that 240 people tuned in to watch it the day before. Professor Stephen Singleton then took over and gave everyone an overview of what was discussed on the first day. He then went on to explain some of his own views about the NHS and used some great terminology, using sayings like ‘rock the boat but don’t fall out’ that engaged everyone at the conference. Finally Kath Evans, Head of Patient Experience for the whole NHS, took over and gave a small talk on empathy and its importance in health and social care. She then finished with a powerful video that sent an important message to everyone about taking control of your own care and how important it was. 

The first workshop that our group participated in was on mental health, led by Dr. Asad Sadiq. He started by asking people’s opinions on mental health as a whole and then led on to talk about the stigma that was attached to it. He was keen to hear the opinions of the Sixth Form students and find out what their views were on mental health and the stigma that was attached to it. We also discussed how we thought we could tackle the issue of stigma linked to mental health. This then sparked a debate with the group about defining what mental health is and the issues that are linked to it. He then ended the workshop by asking the group about what they thought could be done better when it came to mental health and the importance of listening. This gave our Sixth Form group a lot to think about as we went into our final workshop.

The final workshop was about children, led by Kath Evans. She started the workshop by asking all of our sixth form group to stand up and move to a table and to discuss what we thought should be done differently in the NHS. This gave us an opportunity as a group to express our own individual opinions on the health service and what we thought could be done better. In my group we discussed accessibility and being able to harness technology so young people can take control of their own health in a way that was familiar to them. The workshop then ended with a group discussion where each table contributed their ideas and talked about them and what could be done to tackle these problems.

Overall the conference was a success and our Sixth Form students took a lot away from it. Personally, I thought that it was a great experience. It gave me a lot to think about and brought some interesting topics into discussion. One of the key elements that we as a group thought was excellent was that our views and input to the workshops were valued and taken on board by everyone there. We felt very welcome and hope that there will be more opportunities like this for us in the future.