Gavin Harding MBE works for NHS England in the Learning Disability Programme as a Learning Disability Adviser, a position he has held since 2015.
Gavin was also the first person with a learning disability in the UK to be elected as a local councillor in 2011 and achieved another first in 2015, when he was appointed Mayor of Selby Town Council. In the same year he was awarded an MBE for services to people with learning disabilities.
Gavin was also the first person with a learning disability to be employed in the organisation and his outstanding work and drive has led to the organisation employing six more people with learning disabilities and autism.
Co-leading specific work streams and working alongside clinicians and others in the Improving Health & Quality team, he contributes to writing policies and is involved in the delivery of work across NHS England.
Like the other advisers Gavin works at a strategic level and speaks up within the organisation to make a difference and help improve people’s lives and care.
Gavin uses his personal and professional experience of learning disability to bring a valuable additional layer of person-centred expertise to the team.
Representing people with lived experience means that their experiences and opinions can help to shape person-centred recommendations aimed at driving improvements in patient care and treatment.
Since Gavin started working for NHS England he has made a huge difference in the way the organisation employs and supports people with learning disabilities and autism. He has led the organisation to introduce easy read or accessible job application forms, policies and other materials.
He has also led to the introduction of reasonable adjustments for employees with other needs such as those who are partially blind, dyslexic etc. within the whole organisation.
Gavin had to learn how to work as part of a team in a big organisation, it being his first time in such employment. Holding down such an important role has given him the confidence to go on and achieve other things and act as an inspiration to other people with a learning disability, autism or both.
Using his experience of ATUs to advocate for others
Gavin has personal experience as a patient in an assessment and treatment unit (ATU). Having this experience drove Gavin to advocate for people with learning disabilities and autism.
Through his advocacy work Gavin is making sure people held in ATUs are given the right care and treatment, aren’t over medicated, aren’t far from home and aren’t held in hospitals unnecessarily.
Gavin has fought for the rights of people with a learning disability for a long time, in fact he has been advocating for the rights of people with a learning disability since the 90s, and now engages with people nationally about the work of the team and transforming care.
He’s even started a local self-advocacy group in Selby, Voices for People, with the main aim of getting the public to know more about the rights of people with learning disabilities.
Gavin’s drive to see change has led him to play numerous roles, none least was to act as an expert by experience with the Care Quality Commission and co-chairing the Transforming Care Assurance Board with the then Health Minister, Norman Lamb.
York’s People First is an independent group run by people with learning disabilities, for people with learning disabilities. After hearing about their campaigns, Gavin joined so he could raise awareness about some of the things he’d heard and seen in the assessment and treatment units.
Last year Gavin sat on a CCG assurance board, but currently he’s advising on the Care and Treatment Review (CTR) policy, Ministry of Justice focus groups and is about to start co-chairing regional assurance meetings with Ray James for Transforming Care to hold the system to account.