Dr Chris Mountford

Dr Chris Mountford

What made you apply to the position of BAPEN Treasurer?

I think it was probably the cumulative experience of involvement with BAPEN over a 10-year period that made me apply, but no one thing in particular! My first experience was as a conference delegate coming to present a poster abstract. I was really taken by the friendly, relaxed atmosphere created by a multidisciplinary group of healthcare professionals and it created a great opportunity to learn about nutritional care, something that is underrecognised and treated across all healthcare settings. This collective determination of a multidisciplinary group of professionals, working with and for patients to advance nutritional care is what really stands out in BAPEN and ultimately why, with time, I think I have got more involved with the charity. I can’t say that I have expert skills within finance or a finance background but when I applied for the role of Treasurer I was keen to get more involved with the workings of the charity, help it to achieve its charitable aims and learn some new skills. The role of Treasurer I thought would be very focused. How wrong could I have been!

What have you learnt in your role as Treasurer?

This is a good question. I think it can be easy to forget that whilst carrying out a volunteer role for a charity involves a certain commitment of time and effort, there are huge rewards. As well as seeing the charity develop under the leadership of the Executive team and feeling part of that effort to improve nutritional care of patients, personally I have learnt lots. From how to interpret a set of accounts, how an executive team works, the importance of creating achievable goals, what makes a committee work well, how to carry out a tender, how to review and submit a set of annual accounts, how to set up a licensing agreement and lead discussion with legal teams and how to carry out and register a major change in charity structure with the charity commission. All these things have allowed me to interact with and learn from lots of people I would not normally have the opportunity to meet in my day-to-day work and I am very grateful for their patience and support!

How do you think the Executive work together as a team?

I feel very honoured to have worked with such a fantastic group of people in the BAPEN Executive team. I think we have worked really well as a group bringing different experiences and opinions, listening to each other and then finding a way forward. We have had to try to navigate through some major challenges, not least the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic, its impact on patients and healthcare professionals for whom we aim to serve, as well as the charity itself. But we have also seized opportunities including the appointment of a Board of external Trustees which adds significant value to the work of the charity. I think a huge amount of credit must go to Trevor Smith, our President who has expertly guided us through this period calmly, respectfully and professionally – he really has led from the top and been a fantastic role model for me. Ultimately though it’s down to our membership to decide how well they think we have worked together as an Executive team for them. Hopefully the growing member numbers is a positive sign.

Tell us about the move from being a member of the BAPEN Medical Committee to being part of the BAPEN Executive?

I think it certainly helped to have had some experience working in committees before taking on my role within the Executive team. I had previously helped to set up a BAPEN trainees group within BAPEN Medical a number of years ago when I was still a gastroenterology trainee. It was helpful to have been part of one of BAPEN’s core groups and to see some of the successes and challenges faced by our core groups. I think the move to being part of the Exec team allowed me to see how an organisation can influence changes at scale, be it with activities such as Malnutrition Awareness Week, or by closely working with healthcare bodies such as NHS England. For instance, I have had the privilege to see and be part of the NHS clinical cell established in the wake of disruption to Homecare supplies of parenteral nutrition.

What do you most enjoy about your role within BAPEN?

Working with like-minded, friendly people and learning new skills but with a sharp focus on aiming to improve nutritional care of patients that I am involved with day to day in my job as a gastroenterologist.

How do you balance your work/home life with your BAPEN commitments?

Not necessarily as well as I or my family would like me to! There is no doubt that my role within BAPEN takes up time and inevitably some of that time is outside of ‘working hours’. However, it is of variable intensity through the year. There are some periods, for example in the build up to committee meetings or at the time of annual accounts submission that the odd evening gets taken over with BAPEN related commitments. But there are plenty of other periods where it is possible to switch off and focus on other work or family commitments. The committee are also keen to share out the workload where possible so that no one individual is left to feel overwhelmed, so the support is definitely there.

Why do you think people should get involved with BAPEN?

It really is a fantastic charity. It offers huge amounts to patients and healthcare professionals and in my opinion is the organisation which best represents the field we work in within multidisciplinary nutrition support teams. In my view in some ways BAPEN can be seen as the national version of a nutrition support team. We all know how well we can work within our own local teams but that those teams need support and work to continue to function well. It is therefore important that BAPEN continues its work to support us as healthcare professionals and our patients; but it needs interested people to stick up their hand and say “I’ll have a go” at this role or that. It doesn’t need particularly expert skills or qualifications – there are plenty of opportunities to get involved and there is plenty of support along the way.

I would urge anyone interested to get involved and just ask if they have any questions about getting more involved. They will find we are all very happy to discuss things in more detail or try to direct them to someone who can do.