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Our Advisory Board

In 2020, Cygnet established a new Advisory Board whose independent scrutiny and oversight brings invaluable strategic insight to Cygnet’s experienced leadership team.

The Advisory Board is Chaired by Cygnet’s Senior Independent Director, Professor the Lord Patel of Bradford OBE, who is joined by Dame Clare Gerada DBE, Stephen Firn OBE and Mark Stephens CBE.

Our Advisory Board Members are independent and hold non-executive positions. Their considerable expertise and senior experience in mental health and social care, national and international health policy, safeguarding, human rights law and regulation brings benefit to support the delivery of high quality, sustainable care.

Professor, the Lord Patel of Bradford OBE

Professor, the Lord Patel of Bradford OBE was appointed as Senior Independent Board Director at Cygnet Health care in April 2020.

Lord Patel brings deep expertise in mental health care, including in the areas of substance misuse and community cohesion. While serving the UK Government, Lord Patel held roles as the National Strategic Director for the National Institute for Mental Health England, and as a member of the Post-legislative Scrutiny Select Committee on the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

Lord Patel also has significant experience serving on both public and independent sector boards, including chairing for six years the Mental Health Act Commission, the national body responsible for overseeing the care and treatment of all patients detained under the Mental Health Act.

He was Chair of the Delivering Race Equality (DRE) Board, one of the largest mental health race equality programmes ever undertaken, which implemented a major multi-million pound Government national strategy across England and Wales.

Having been awarded an OBE for his ‘Services to Ethnic Minority Health Issues’, Lord Patel also holds a number of academic accolades within the healthcare sector, including an honorary Doctorate of Health from the University of Bradford and Professorial Fellow of Mental Health from the Institute of Mental Health Nottingham.

Having been a regulator across a number of regulatory agencies and frameworks, Lord Patel offers invaluable insight and experience in this area.

He is also the Current Chair of Social Work England, the regulator for all child, family and adult social workers in England as well as being the Chair of the Independent Health Providers Network.

Dame Clare Gerada DBE

Dame Clare Gerada DBE is an Independent Advisor to the Board providing advice and oversight to the executive management team around clinical governance, practices and policies.

Dame Gerada brings with her over thirty years’ experience working in healthcare, having first trained in psychiatry at the Maudsley hospital before following her father’s footsteps and training to be a general practitioner.

In 2000, Dame Gerada was awarded an MBE for services to medicine and to substance misuse in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, and since then has developed services for doctors and dentists struggling with mental health, establishing and leading NHS Practitioner Health since 2008.

Alongside her clinical practice, Dame Gerada has held a number of national leadership positions and was appointed Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners in 2010, becoming the second woman in its 55-year history to do so. She was awarded a DBE in the 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to general practice and mental health.

In the same year, Dame Gerada also established a service for problem gamblers and currently chairs the newly formed registered charity, Doctors in Distress. She is also co-chair of the NHS Assembly.

Stephen Firn OBE

Stephen Firn OBE has over 20 years’ experience of NHS Trust Boards in clinical, strategic and chief executive positions, including as CEO of Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust, a mental health and community services provider. Until October 2020, he was programme director at NHS England and NHS Improvement, leading a national initiative to support provider collaboratives, and has held policy advisor roles at both the Department for Health and at the Royal College of Nursing.

He joined Cygnet Health Care as an Independent Non-Executive Director in January 2021. Stephen remains as a non-executive director and deputy chair at Surrey and Border NHS FT, a board role he has held since 2018, and as a non-executive director at the housing, care and support charity Look Ahead.

During a varied career in health care which began when he joined the NHS as a student psychiatric nurse, Stephen is the recipient of a number of honours, including an Honorary Doctorate from Canterbury Christ Church University for outstanding contribution to public life and an OBE for services to healthcare, particularly mental health.

Mark Stephens CBE

Mark Stephens CBE is an internationally accomplished and respected human rights lawyer, who has previously worked on safeguarding. Highly regarded for his advocacy, passion and extensive global experience in Human Rights and the UN Ruggie Principles, Mark’s work gives voice to societies’ most vulnerable. He has significant experience of chairing and serving on boards to give independent oversight in heavily regulated environments, and has also held many charitable, regulatory, government and academic appointments.

Mark is Vice Chair of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute and works with the Human Dignity Trust, working globally to promote and protect human rights. He was founding chair of the Internet Watch Foundation, established to provide greater protection for children from online sexual abuse and he is also Chair of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation.

Mark sits on the board of the Independent Schools Inspectorate (the Ofsted for independent & boarding schools), which overseas safeguarding as well as educational provision – particularly ensuring that advantage is not being taken of vulnerable people. Currently Mark Chairs the Global Network Initiative (GNI) advising international businesses in the ICT sector on compliance with Business & Human Rights.

He has written child protection policy for schools, businesses and religious settings and has been (amongst others) on the boards of Wanstead Church of England Primary School, the Rose Bruford College and chaired the University of East London.