Third-year Biomedical Science student Melissa Matthews was invited to Westminster Abbey on 5 July to attend the thanksgiving service celebrating the 70th anniversary of the NHS.

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calendar-icon 10 July 2018

Melissa was nominated for her role as a Young Persons Representative at Barts Heath NHS Trust, where she helps to facilitate the monthly Youth Forum meetings and helps provide a balanced view point on changes proposed to young patients’ care by the Care Quality Commission, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines or the Trust itself.

Melissa says, “I was nominated to go for my work with Barts Health NHS Trust, where I have volunteered for the last five years. As Young Persons Representative, I help make sure that the same level of care is delivered to young patients over all five of the Trust’s sites.

“When I arrived at the Abbey, I was quite early so I made sure I got an aisle seat to get a good view of the processional line. I watched as Members of Parliament and the Countess of Wessex arrived and was I moved by the stories of patients such as Freya Lewis, who had 13 operations following the Manchester terrorist attack.”

“What I loved most was that even though most of the guests had gone to the event alone, we all had common ground so I got talking to lots of new people. I spent time talking to Ethel, who had an MBE and had given seven decades service to the NHS.

Melissa explains why she started volunteering and what led her to pursue a career in medicine.

She says, “At school, I had a friend with renal disease. She was bright and bubbly but sadly she slowly started to withdraw from her friends and her school work as she spent more time in hospital. She used to speak a lot about the challenges she faced as a young person in hospital.

“She was receiving great medical care, but it wasn’t about that, it was about feeling as though she was being listened to and recognition that her condition was affecting her life. It made me think, why is no one doing something about this? Why is no one representing the views of young patients?

“When I was sixteen, I answered an advertisement in the newspaper for a patient representative post at Barts Health NHS Trust. Following a panel interview I was offered the post of the first Young Person’s Representative. I think the interview panel were surprised as they had thought from my application that I was older, but they hired me as they saw how energised I was about making a difference.”

Melissa will be graduating from St George’s this summer and will be taking up a place to study medicine at Hull and York Medical School in September.

She says, “While the medical care provided by the NHS is second to none, I’d like to continue providing a voice for patients on their stays in hospital. I’ve invested a lot of my spare time as well as study time into my dream of being a doctor. I have since started lecturing in patient engagement strategy at a London University, to postgraduate nursing students. I would love to continue sharing my experience to others.”

“What I love about St George’s is that you can walk down a hospital corridor and see one of your lecturers in their clinical practice. Studying here has opened my mind to a potential career in research. I did a neuroscience research project as part of my course, and that’s inspired me to spend my summers on research placements.”