Chief Executive - Michelle Thompson BEM

As Chair and Director of Healthwatch Darlington Ltd. between May 2013 and December 2014, I was proud to have led our team to be the first Healthwatch in the North East to float independently as a Charitable Company Limited by Guarantee by 31st March 2014.

In January 2015 I was honoured to have been given the opportunity of using my senior management skills for the role of Chief Executive Officer and to continue making a positive difference to health and social care users in Darlington. I am driven by a passion to ensure that the patient, carer, and public voice is not only listened to but understood and acted upon appropriately.

I lost my 18-year-old sister to an aggressive form of teenage bone cancer in 1995 and in 2003 at the age of 36, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Since then I have run, hiked and cycled all over the world raising money and awareness for Macmillan Cancer Support. By using my voice locally, regionally and nationally throughout my fourteen years of volunteering, I have gained invaluable experience and made a difference not only in my own community but in the health and social care and voluntary and community sectors. I was incredibly proud to receive the British Empire Medal in the 2013 New Years Honours List for Community and Charity Work in Darlington and County Durham.  I feel very strongly that volunteers are a charity’s most valued asset and I am keen to empower local people, explore recruitment opportunities and create new and exciting engagement ideas that appeal to our diverse population.  

In my personal life, I'm married to Mick and we have two grown-up children Emily and Billy.  We like to travel, visiting family and friends and we split most of our weekends between Darlington and Folkestone where Mick works as a Health and Safety Advisor in the Renewable Energy sector. I'm a keen runner and cyclist taking on lots of different challenges during the year and I enjoy being a member of the Rotary Club of Darlington, raising money for local and international causes. 

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Our staff

Diane Lax - Operations Manager

Diane’s role is to provide operational support to the CEO and Board members this includes the management of the budgets and supervision of office staff. She has a vast knowledge of local networks and is passionate about bringing local groups together to build a ‘Network of Networks’.

Her passion outside of work is horse riding, owning her own horse and competing in one day events, this along with keeping up with her 6 grandchildren ensures she never has a dull moment.

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Jemma Austin - Senior Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator

Jemma coordinates two of Healthwatch Darlington's volunteering programmes - the Health Connector volunteers assist with project work and outreach activities in Darlington aswell as supporting us with providing information & signposting to the local community and listening to service users. She also coordinates our young volunteering project 'Youthwatch Darlington' providing young volunteers with confidence and guidance to improve health and social care for young people living in the town.

Jemma joined the Healthwatch Darlington team in 2014 and is an undergraduate in Business & Management. She has worked in the voluntary sector since 2010 and started her career as a Learning & Development Administrator with Victim Support, and over the years she has dedicated her own time as a volunteer. 

Working in the voluntary sector is passion of Jemma's and gives her first-hand experience to enable her to understand the importance of volunteering and the impact volunteers have on local communities.

Jemma spends her spare time with her family and is a mother of two young children. She has a love for the outdoors/countryside, food, cooking, Netflix, movies, her dog and socialising with her family and friends.

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Rachel McCabe - Project Officer

Job Description: Rachel's role is to oversee and support the addtional projects at Healthwatch Darlington. Rachel's research and data handling skills enables Healthwatch Darlington to develop information and signposting in the local area.

Having always lived and worked in Darlington Rachel has a good knowledge of the local community and  has enjoyed working in the voluntary & community sector since 2003.

During her free time Rachel loves to spend time with her family and  enjoys walks in the countryside in Northumberland and the Lake District.

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Jamie Odgers - Communications & Intelligence Officer

Jamie's responsible for handling Healthwatch Darlington's media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and our website. Jamie uses his communication skills to develop creative social media posts, newsletters and various communications. Jamie is also responsible for data entry and ensuring our Customer Relationship Management (CRM system) is up to date. Jamie gathers intelligence using different methods to help inform Healthwatch Darlington's work. 

Jamie's background is in computing, with 2 university degrees in Computing Science and ICT so having been a volunteer with Healthwatch for 2 years he has had ample opportunity to use these skills and develop them further. 

Having suffered physical injuries and depression as a result of an accident in 2014, he had to quit his last job as a Technical Services Agent for Samsung. He then moved to Darlington and decided to become a volunteer so he could meet new people, build up his confidence in speaking to other people and continue to develop his IT skills. He is delighted to be given the opportunity to become Communications and Intelligence Officer with Healthwatch Darlington!

Jamie is a 32 year old disabled man originally from Northern Ireland. At the beginning of 2017 he moved here with his fiancée who is from Darlington. He is a very passionate Liverpool FC supporter and enjoy following the team on TV and through various social media platforms.

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Our volunteers

Lorraine Dunn - Health Connector

I have retired twice and still keep busy even though I have some health problems. I knew nothing about Healthwatch until I came across an on-line article. I looked into it and it sounded like something I would like to volunteer for. So I did and I love it!

The staff and other health connectors are just lovely.

There are so many things that we can get involved with from outreach work where we can tell people all about Healthwatch, admin and listening to what people want for our local health and social care services. It's so flexible, you do as many hours as you want and when it couldn't be easier.

I am so glad I got involved with such a worthwhile organisation.

Ross Bowman - Health Connector

I am 31 years of age and do a lot of research and media. As a fellow autistic I am very creative and self-sufficient being a volunteer allows a lot of pride and exquisite thought when providing help and experience to a cause. I enjoy giving back to the community whilst gaining experience to follow new and exciting job opportunities. 

Faith Miller - Health Connector

Over the last twenty years I have worked in community settings such as substance misuse, homelessness and cancer support.   Volunteering at Healthwatch complements the Health Psychology MSc that I am currently studying for at Teesside University; being a Health Connector has given me a fantastic opportunity to interact directly with patients and the public in Darlington, hearing their views and better understanding about the services that are available in our locality.

Patricia Martin - Health Connector

I am Jamaican and I have lived in Darlington for 27 years. I have always been a volunteer even before I moved to England. I used to volunteer in Jamaica in Youth Clubs and help to teach adults to read and write. I believe the greatest skills anyone can have is to be able to read and write. 

In 1993 I began volunteering with Citizens Advice Bureau and was an advisor. I was involved with a variety of committees and over the years have met some inspirational people. 

Being a volunteer means I can give advice, help people, feel useful in society, meet a mix of new people and it gives me confidence. 

Amy Adams - Youthwatch Darlington Volunteer

Hey there! Amy here, and I am very excited to be volunteering with Healthwatch Darlington. I am volunteering for Healthwatch Darlington because, even though I know a few things, I want to learn and experience so much more!

Liang Lingze - Youthwatch Darlington volunteer

My name is Liang Lingze. I come from China.

I am an undergraduate and major in Food and Nutrition at Teesside University.

I like to help people, In the past I used to volunteer in an underground station in China. I’m very excited to now be a volunteer with Youthwatch Darlington. I am hoping to learn more new things! At the same time, I can use my knowledge about nutrition.