Donna Middleton


Read Donna's story

Please tell us a little bit about yourself

My name is Donna Middleton, I’m 57 years old and recently retired. Before I retired, I worked in customer services, and was involved in setting up engagement and involvement opportunities in the community. When I’m not at home and catching up with my friends, I love to travel and can
often be found in Spain.

I spent the majority of my career working in the financial sector leading the Barclaycard customer service teams in the UK and India. Over the last ten years I worked in the public sector with Northumbria Police and for a non profit housing association directing customer service teams.

My last two roles were very involved in engagement and involvement opportunities so that my organisations could benefit from listening to their customers and make sure their services were relevant.

Aside from my career I have a husband, son, stepson and stepdaughter. The hubby and I spend quite a bit of time in Spain, we own a place out there so are very lucky to have two countries we call home.

How did you first hear about Patient Research Ambassadors?

I first heard about the role from a friend who works at James Cook University Hospital in the research programme. They felt it would be something I would be interested in and could add some value too. I took a look at the role and decided to go to an initial meeting, where I then signed up.

What made you decide to become a Patient Research Ambassador?

In 2015 I was rushed into Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, after becoming quite poorly when I was on a weekend break in London. I was under the care of an Infection Consultant for six days and was both amazed and thankful for their commitment and perseverance in diagnosing my symptoms.

They asked me if I was happy to support their research programme, of course I said yes! To this day, I receive regular communications and contact and have an emotional bond with the team that I know I’ll have for the rest of my life.

Sadly, I lost my mum to breast cancer in 2012 after two years treatment at James Cook University Hospital. It was a very intense time. While she was in her chemotherapy sessions, I sat in waiting rooms and observed how the hospital faced staff challenges, internal processes and how they communicated across departments and, more importantly, with patients, their families and their carers.

These experiences made me appreciate the challenge in trying to respond to patients’ different needs in a way that makes everyone feel cared for, valued and supported.

Why do you think NHS research is important?

Research is key to the future of the NHS. Not only does research lead to providing the best treatment and care for patients, but it’s integral as it reaches out and involves the wider community, making it as current, efficient and effective as it can be.

What activities have you been involved with?

It’s early days for me, I have been to an Applied Research Collaborations (ARC) workshop to support the bid process, which is a funding application, I sense checked the initial bid in mid August which involved ensuring it was written in plain English and to ensure it had a view from a patient inclusion perspective. I have also been asked to get involved with radio interviews to publicise the role of Patient research Ambassador.

What would you say to others who are considering getting involved in research?

I would say go for it! Being involved is very important in terms of improving treatments and services. It’s also great to have a platform as the voice of a patient to not only be heard but listened to, which could lead to positive changes.

It has given me the opportunity to meet people from all different walks of life, which has been a great experience and one which has made me feel happy that I’m in a position to hopefully add value and make a difference.