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Sebastian Kraemer

Appointed December 2022.

Why did you want to become a governor?

I want to ensure that, in its organisation and trainings, the Trust builds on its own brilliant innovations in professional development.

Better meetings: The Tavistock and Portman clinics are rightly famous for NHS psychotherapy trainings and services. Less well known is their realisation – discovered over many decades’ engagement with all kinds of organisations, even with industry and the army – that effective teamwork depends on the authority of every member of the team, including those who are less powerful or less articulate. What this means is that each gains enough confidence in themselves to speak up, but also to change their position without being pressured to do so.

Wherever they take place, most meetings are not like that. People in groups tend to censor themselves, or feel silenced by louder and stronger voices that take over the proceedings. It is often easier to go along with what seems to be the majority view, obscuring the bigger picture. Yet there are many occasions in public services, such as multidisciplinary team meetings and case conferences, or any gathering (such as a council of governors) whose precise purpose is to incorporate all views, however contradictory they may be.

I have worked in acute paediatrics and psychiatry in the NHS since 1971 and still see for myself the harm done to patients when colleagues fail to collaborate. In whichever field or capacity they may work in future, I want to support the next generation of Tavistock and Portman trainees to make full use of the Trust’s unique, home-grown resources – group relations conferences, reflective and work discussion seminars – to grow the courage and leadership needed for better professional partnerships.

As the 2023/2024 Training Prospectus says, “we know people learn differently when they live through and experience things for themselves”. Learning from experience is both intellectual and emotional labour. This is harder, but more productive than following instructions.

What skills and experience do you feel you can bring to the role?

Since 1976 I have been identified with the Trust in a variety of roles, from trainee to consultant, from teacher to writer, mentor and honorary consultant. My election as governor continues the association.

For many years I directed the Tavistock training of child and adolescent psychiatrists, the only course in the Trust exclusively for doctors, preparing them for NHS consultant posts. In parallel I was for 35 years consultant psychiatrist in the nearby Whittington hospital paediatric department, working during that time with thousands of young people and their families admitted in emergency suicidal crises and supporting nursing and medical staff in the care of these and other complex cases. I now work with NHS staff groups in medicine, paediatrics and mental health.

Do you have any relevant interests (financial, political, or other) to declare?

Member of the Labour party.