The Last Campaign

Here for the first time on the internet is a document which interestingly, was originally compiled with my help as an HTML file.

It consists of Mary's application for a post of non executive director on a Health Trust Board. It is followed by the presentation which she had to make at interview, for which I also possess a tape of us going through it together. She attended an interview on 2nd of July, 1997.

It was raining as I recall, and there were all manner of professional types there as well. The interviewers were surprised as usual that she turned up in a wheelchair as from the claims she made in her C.V. they had not anticipated that she could be as disabled as she was, and have been able to achieve all that she did. Ironically it gives a personal example of the sort of thing that was to follow a week later.

Two days later on 4th July she had a letter confirming that she had been succesful, and that it was only a matter of time before she would take up a position which required ministerial approval.

The following week on Monday she attended a meeting in London, as West Midlands members representative for RADAR and was taken ill. On Wednesday 9th she was admitted to Walsgrave hospital in the mid afternoon and had to wait in a corridor until the early hours of the morning before they could find a bed on the ward. Sometime in the early hours of Saturday the 12th she finally stopped breathing. Had she lived, she would no doubt by now be sitting on the board of that same hospital!

Mary Arnold - Curriculum Vitae


26a Starley Road, Spon End
Coventry CV1 3JU
Tel. 01203 226006




Hearsall School, Centaur Road, Coventry.


I left school in 1949 and gained an NNEB qualification. After training I worked as a live in nanny for a dentist as I was to young to take up a place for nursing at the Radcliffe Infirmary which had been offered. I did not take up this place as I married in the following year and my husband preferred me not to work full time.

I did later return to full time work in the late 1960's in school meals, gaining City and Guilds stage 1 & 2 qualifications. I subsequently ended up as a cook supervisor, in charge of my own kitchen and responsible for 10 women.

Early Retirement

In 1980 I was first diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis which was eventually to put an end to my career in catering, as in those less enlightened times, redeployment was not thought of. I was unable to take further qualifications in business catering which I would have liked to have done, and I was prematurely retired.

Being an active person I sought to fill my time with voluntary work and for as long as I was physically capable served in the tea bar at Whitley Hospital. I also became involved with Arthritis Care, initially helping out with catering. As my disability worsened and I also became diagnosed with Asthma I sought voluntary work of a less physically demanding nature.

Coventry Legal and Income Rights

In 1982 I trained as a disability rights advisor with Coventry Legal and Income Rights Trust, (Coventry Law Centre) and went on to become involved in other disability organisations, particularly the Coventry Council of Disabled People which was founded in 1983. I first chaired this organisation in 1985 and served in this capacity for a further four years during which time I also became a committee member of Coventry Arthritis care.

I continued to have strong links with legal and income rights, and was asked in 1988 to become a member of their Council of Management in which capacity I still serve.

I also served on the council of management of the Coventry Voluntary Services Council whilst the Coventry Council of Disabled People remained affiliated to its original parent body.

Coventry Women's Health Network

During this period of time I also chaired the Coventry Women's Health Network, which went on to set up the Coventry Women's Health and Information Centre at Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital through Urban Funding. This involved frequent negotiation with the District Health Authority and the drawing up of job specifications, interviewing and supervision of employees etc.

Coventry Unemployed Workers Project

I was also involved with the Coventry Trades Council Unemployed Workers Project through joint ventures with CCODP. setting up a research project. I eventually came to represent the CCODP on the management committee of the Unemployed Workers Project and on the Finance and General Purposes Committee. When it became a limited company I became one of the directors.

The Unemployed workers project runs a project for disabled people, providing various training. I have been involved in drawing up job specifications, shortlisting, interviewing and liaising with employees in much the same way as with the Women's Health Network. I also taught on some of the courses until I became a director which no longer allowed this.

I have also been involved in training intake nurses at Walsgrave in disability, and have lectured to Post Graduates at Warwick University.

Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation

Through the CCODP's affiliation to RADAR I have had an involvement at a National Level. When RADAR established a committee in 1990 to represent the interest its member groups. I was elected to the represent the West Midlands Region, including Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Shropshire as well as the Urban Conurbation. I am still in this position.

I have also had a special interest in Transport for Disabled People and after chairing the CCODP represented them on the Coventry Transport Users Advisory Committee, and Ring and Ride Advisory Committee. In 1988 I presented a paper to a Department of Transport Disabled Persons Advisory Committee hearing in London.

Community Health Council and Health/SS Joint Consultative Council

I have been a member of the Coventry CHC since 1988 and am have recently been re-elected onto the Joint Consultative Committee as a service user. Prior to that I was a voluntary representative on the Joint Services Planning Group for Physical Disability

I have been until recently chair of the Coventry Wheelchair Users Group, set up after the devolution of the wheelchair service from Selly Oak to Coventry.

Independent Tribunal Service

As can be seen from my involvement with the Coventry Law Centre and unemployed workers project I have developed an expertise in disability related benefits. I have recently used this to good effect as I have been a lay member of the Disability Appeals Tribunal, sitting in Coventry and Birmingham. since it was set up as a branch of the Independent Tribunal Service in 1992

My experience of Health related work

I have now had a long involvement with the Health Service, both as a patient and through the CHC and JCC. I belong to the nursing home visiting panel.

I bring to the CHC, knowledge of a wide range of disability issues, not just those relating to my own disabilities, as my experience in CCODP and RADAR has brought me into contact with the widest spectrum of disabled people and organisations. However I still have an abiding interest in Rheumatology, and was the lead member of the Patients influencing Purchasers project in Coventry.

My interests in the Health service have extended beyond the bounds of disability which is only one issue. I have always been keen on Women's Health Issues in general and even before I became disabled was involved in counselling at the Coventry Women's refuge.

In 1995 I returned to chair the Coventry Council of Disabled People and am still in that position.

Personal Status and general interests

As regards my personal status, I am a widow, with two grown up children, one of whom has become my facilitator.
I enjoy the theatre when I can, as a member of the Belgrade Theatre access group.
I have had home tuition in Computer Literacy and Information Technology. I have a keen interest in current affairs and reading.
I also belong to a group of Citizens Band and Radio volunteers and have spent weekends marshalling events such as diverse as marching band competitions, marathons, and motor cycle rallies.
I use an electric wheelchair at home, and environmental control equipment.
I do not drive, but have my own transport.

Why I am applying

I feel it is very important for people like myself to become involved in the management of the Health Authority, as I bring a wide range of experiences and skills, derived from 15 years in the voluntary sector. I do not believe that age or disability should debar me from taking a full part in the community as my life has taken on a new meaning since becoming disabled when I could easily have settled for a life of dependency after my career in catering was abruptly terminated.

Copyright 1997

Most recent revision Sunday, March 09, 1997

Verbal presentation to Interview panel

Five minutes is not a very long time to give all of my views about the NHS so I have written down the points which I feel are the most important, so that I don't go over time.

Bringing experience to bear

We all have an ideal picture of the way we want the NHS to work for us as individuals. The NHS is a complicated piece of machinery in which changes for one group may well impact significantly upon another. Although I agree with patient input through user groups and surveys, I also believe it is necessary to have the input of professionals and others who have a broader outlook and can understand how to put the results of the surveys and the publics wishes into effect within the framework of what is possible. Not everybody at the point of contact appreciates the outside factors which can put pressure on the whole service from Hospitals to G.P's to Health Promotion etcetera.. This I have learnt from my years on the CHC. and through talking with people at all levels of the NHS.

Importance of Health promotion and evening out inequalities

I accept that the NHS is limited in what it can do, which is why I believe that Primary Health Care and Health Promotion is so important, So that the pressure on acute services can reduced. Unfortunately there are lots of inequalities which means that Health Promotion needs to be targeted at those groups who are most disadvantaged. There is a wide discrepancy between the life expectancies of people in different areas. The causes of these inequalities need to be attacked so that everyone can have access to a lifestyle which gives them the maximum opportunity to prevent avoidable disease. This can only mean a saving in the long run which can be spent on the priority areas of the NHS and leaves scope to manage the unpredictability of new needs which may arise in the future.

I acknowledge the role of the GP and the voluntary sector in bringing this about. There are also other factors such as housing, public transport and employment patterns which are beyond the scope of the NHS to change. An example of what can be done readily is events like World Mental Health Day which I am involved in which raise the public awareness.

More importantly, a great deal can be achieved by taking services out to the community. Where the need is and where the people are. Such as blood tests, and outpatients clinics in local surgeries, and child clinics in supermarket car parks. (Eg. Do it all across Road from Red Lion, not far from us now.)

Social Services and Health working together.

An example of the current difficulties which face the NHS are the needs for continuing care and the pressures being put on by people unable to leave hospital when they are otherwise ready for discharge due to lack of Social Services funding, There are also problems deciding which services are health related and not charged for, and those which are Social for which in the current climate of under funding charges are usually made.

Social Services and Health .need to work closely together to come up with joint solutions based on an understanding of the very different ways in which each of them work and the different lines of responsibility which each has. I am well aware of these sensitive issues through serving on the JCC, and more recently on the Joint planning team.

I like the idea of a halfway house where people leaving hospital and in need of non medical care can be catered for, whilst waiting for the various assessments and services to be put in place.
On the other hand too many people discharged too quickly find themselves readmitted distorting the total figures of people treated over time.

Rationing and needs led services

I am sure I am going to be asked about how the NHS needs to progress given the limitations on finance which appear to have been there from its beginning. I do not believe it can ever be correct to advocate rationing. Particularly given the fact that the public need to keep faith with the service and such an emotive topic is bound to raise public hostility. Everybody is prepared to fight for the bit of the NHS they use most. But they disregard the other parts they might need in the future which they are not aware of now.

Getting priorities right is not the same thing as rationing. It is necessary to direct assistance to those who need it most. Services must be needs led. The internal market has distorted the picture, meaning that some very important services have not had the funding profile of others, (for example rheumatology and dermatology Mental Health. ). I know rheumatology is my specialty but it is the greatest cause of serious and long term disability in the UK.).

Specialities must not compete against each other for a share of the resources based on the price they can command. They must be apportioned through sound planning which takes account of the fact that the market does not like to supply unpopular services like fertility clinics. This is why an internal market is an inappropriate model for health care.


I believe there are ways to improve the organisation of services taking into account real patient need. For example a separation of minor injuries from major trauma, can be successful as those needing minor attention, who would normally wait the longest in a Triage situation, will be seen sooner leading to more satisfaction. Of course services need to be located appropriately, for instance Eye care needs to take account of industrial injuries and be convenient for major industry. And also there must be rapid transfer from minor injury to trauma if a situation worsens suddenly. I can give an example from personal experience where I had a fall which caused an asthma attack. It was necessary for me to be under observation for head injury, but the priority was to stabilise my breathing. This occasioned some delay while the paramedics sorted out whether I should go to Walsgrave or Coventry and Warwick.

Role of nurse practitioners ?


Finally I expect I should have something to say about the PFI . Although I am not really in favour of it, I recognise that we are now in a situation where it has gone so far down the line, that there is a need for this to go ahead in order to see improvements which will not come about otherwise. Perhaps some services are not amenable to be run by the private sector, particularly those which are more clinically orientated. However others such as catering and building maintenance, equipment and IT are.



Site Navigator

 Mary Arnold's original page describing her adventures with an unusual electric wheelchair.
The whole of the political and voluntary community in Coventry turned out for her funeral, these are some of their tributes 
 Mary in her own words, various writings and thoughts on living with a disability
 What the papers said, Mary was seldom out of the news
An inspirational poem chosen by Mary's other son, Marcus and read out at her funeral
A selection of photographs


Copyright 1998 Laurence Arnold
This page was created on, Sunday, October 25th 1998