Diana Blackmun

Diana is the Chief Executive Officer of Healthwatch Central Bedfordshire

Diana began her career working for the Civil Service at The Patent Office in London. Before progressing to the General Medical Council, she worked within a team interviewing foreign doctors and processing applications to qualify for work in the UK.

Since moving out of London into the Shire Counties, Diana worked for both large and small organisations before starting work in the political office of Bedfordshire County Council working directly for the Leader of the Council and Executive Members.

Diana then progressed to Adult Social Care to work more closely with service users and the public and to pursue her degree in Social Sciences with Social Policy.

In her more recent role working for Central Bedfordshire Council, Diana led on Customer Engagement for a procurement project which won the Government Opportunities Best Customer Engagement Initiative of the Year Award in March 2012. Diana was also the recipient of the 2012 Employee of the Year Award given by the Social Care, Health & Housing Directorate of Central Bedfordshire Council in December 2012.

Diana is a keen volunteer and her work includes volunteering at a local hospice and with local youth groups. Diana is passionate about customer engagement, involving customers in the provision and delivery of health and social care; to have their say and drive up quality.

Annette Brown HWCB Volunteer

Annette Brown

Annette is the Engagement and Volunteer Officer

Annette started her career as a Chemist within the water and waste management industries before moving into Health and Safety.  After moving to Bedfordshire in 2012, she continued her health, safety and quality work within a local business whist volunteering in a local care home for physically disabled adults.

Annette then became a Care Support Worker there whilst gaining qualifications in health and social care.

She also volunteered with Home-Start Central Bedfordshire which provides practical and emotional support to families with young children and was then employed by them as an Area Co-Ordinator ensuring that volunteers and families were matched.

In 2018 Annette began volunteering with Healthwatch Central Bedfordshire and became involved with the Enter & View team and Festival for Older People.

Eleanor Ryles

Eleanor Ryles

Eleanor is the Youth Engagement and Volunteer Officer

Eleanor has worked across the corporate and not for profit sector and started off her career recruiting for many different charities and government bodies ranging from Cancer Research UK to Department of Health. Following an internship at Jeans for Genes she then moved to look after Business Services at the membership charity Association for Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO). Her most recent role was with Rightmove Plc where she looked after a wide variety of projects in the pricing team.

Eleanor has since taken time out to look after her 2 young girls. During this time she has volunteered for Silsoe Pre School as a joint Secretary for the committee.

In 2009 she also helped set up ‘the dandy trust’ in memory of her father who passed away due to having a brain tumour. ‘The dandy trust’ is a fundraising group underneath Brain Tumour Research and works together to lobby government for more awareness and funding for brain tumours, as well as key fundraising for support and research.

Debbie Hull for web

Debbie Hull

Debbie is the Digital Communications Officer

Debbie has over 10 years’ experience in marketing and communications within the mental healthcare sector. She has a passion for creative design and was the lead designer at Partnerships in Care, an independent mental healthcare provider, for a 20 strong in-house marketing and sales team with 70+ hospitals requiring rapid turnaround of designs for both external and internal communications.

As Relationship Manager and Marketing & Communications Manager at Nouvita Healthcare, Debbie was responsible for the communication to NHS Commissioners and Case Managers to announce the opening of a new Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). This resulted in the service running at 90% occupancy within 6 weeks of opening.

Debbie’s empathy and caring nature now leads her to Healthwatch Central Bedfordshire, where she wants to encourage customer engagement on health and social care provision. As a carer for her husband, who has mental and physical health needs, she is passionate about helping to influence change and improve the quality of health and social care within our community.

Alison Newnham

Alison Newnham

Alison is the Database and Office Administrator

Alison has many years’ experience being an administrator. During her varied career she has worked in banks, schools both primary and secondary, interactive games and most recently for a charity working with students and graduates, developing internal processes to ensure a smooth run office.

She has knowledge of planning and implementing large scale events which will be additionally utilised to support the team.

Alison is an active volunteer with the Good Neighbourhood Scheme run in her village, as well as a member of GirlGuiding for over 40 years.

She looks forward to promoting Healthwatch in her local area and more widely throughout Central Bedfordshire, engaging with the general public to ensure that everyone has the best access to health and social care they both need and want.



Dave Simpson

Dave is the Chair and a Director of Healthwatch Central Bedfordshire

Dave was diagnosed with Oesophageal cancer in 2009 and following successful treatment is now a local champion for cancer patients and their families to ensure the patient voice is heard.

Dave previously enjoyed a varied career which included serving in the Royal Air Force as an Assistant Air Traffic Controller, landlord of a pub, an IT trainer and a Fleet and Facilities Manager.

As well as being a Director of Healthwatch Central Bedfordshire, Dave is the former Chair of Bedford Cancer Action Partnership and is Deputy Chair of Flitwick Surgery Patient Partnership Group. Dave was a member of both the South East London Consumer Research Panel for Cancer at Guys Hospital and Bedford Cancer Awareness Champions. Dave is a patient representative on several groups at the East of England Strategic Clinical Network and is also a patient representative and reviewer on the National Cancer Peer Review.

More recently Dave is an independent representative on the Public Engagement Forum and West Mid Beds Patient Participation Group of the Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group. Dave also works with Macmillan Cancer Support as a reviewer and volunteer speaker.

Paul Downing

Paul is Vice Chair and a Director of Healthwatch Central Bedfordshire

Paul joins us after serving four years as a Central Bedfordshire Councillor 2015-19 where he worked on the Social Care, Health and Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee and Joint Health Committee alongside Councillors from Bedford, Luton and Milton Keynes.

Paul was part of the CBC review team that wrote a paper on Integrated Care in Central Bedfordshire in 2018. He is involved with a number of local charities as a volunteer and in 2013 retired from Policing where at his last posting he headed up the College of Policing’s Investigative Crime Training Unit. His hobbies include weeding a semi-abandoned allotment and looking for his lost golf balls!


Gill Hiscox

Gill is a Director of Healthwatch Central Bedfordshire

Gill has a wealth of experience and local knowledge about health care systems and providers. Gill has worked within the NHS in Bedfordshire for over 40 years, initially in Human Resources with the local Health Authority, and more recently as a Practice Manager in a local GP practice for over 15 years.

Gill was elected South Bedfordshire Trust Board member of the Luton and Dunstable Hospital and has been a member for four years. Gill is also a local Parish Councillor in Central Bedfordshire.

Gill was responsible for setting up the first Patient Participation Group (PPG) in Bedfordshire which won a National Award for its patient involvement. As part of her current role Gill is currently involved in discussions around GP Federations and all the potential changes that will hopefully drive the NHS forward.

Gill is passionate about hearing and listening to the patient voice and recently took on the role of Chair of the West Mid Beds Locality Patient Participation Group. Gill has also found time to manage a local Girl Guide Unit for the past 30 years in her local community.

Head and shoulders

Linda Grant

Linda is a Director of Healthwatch Central Bedfordshire

Linda has been a Volunteer and Director of Healthwatch Central Bedfordshire since 2013. She joined as she was very disillusioned with the Mental Health service in Central Bedfordshire and wanted to make a difference. Linda is a champion for Mental Health.

Since joining Linda has assisted with setting up Minds2gether in Dunstable and the Lighthouse in Leighton Buzzard which are mental health support groups managed by service users. She is committed to ensure our NHS provides the best patient care.

Linda is involved in HWCB’s Enter and View programme in which we visit Care Homes, GP surgeries and hospital wards, to find out how they are being run and to make recommendations where there are areas for improvement.

During the pandemic Linda worked for the Office of National Statistics in the community. This involved meeting the residents of Central Bedfordshire on a daily basis, swabbing and collecting blood as part of their survey to monitor the spread of Covid-19. Whilst doing this she was able to help patients with many queries and problems they had.

As a Healthwatch Director, Linda sits on several committees and ensures the voice of local people is heard. She also gets involved with the procurement of different services within the NHS.

Karen Proctor

Karen Proctor

Karen is a Director of Healthwatch Central Bedfordshire

Karen has academic qualifications in both health related studies and management and has worked in the NHS for nearly forty years initially as a nurse and midwife delivering front line care, progressing to Board level as Director of Nursing and Chief Operating Officer.

Karen recently retired as Director of Quality from Guys & St Thomas NHS Trust which involved working with partners and patient groups.  More recently Karen has been a Vice Chair for the Quality & Audit Group at Keech Hospice for nine years and is also a Trustee for Heritage Care which looks after elderly patients with learning disabilities and mental health problems.  Karen is passionate about improving patient experience and safety and is also a specialist advisor to the CQC.

Carol Carter HWCB Volunteer

Carol Carter

Carol is a Director of Healthwatch Central Bedfordshire

Carol is an existing volunteer with HWCB and has worked in local government for 37 years; the majority of that time as a Town Clerk at Flitwick. Prior to working in the public sector, Carol held two posts that related to marketing and is also trained in Prince 2 Project Management.

Carol is currently secretary of the Flitwick and District Branch of the Royal British Legion, a general volunteer for The Place Theatre in Bedford, a Parish Councillor for Marston Moretaine and an Independent Visitor for a child in care.

Carol has an excellent knowledge of accounting and still carries out internal audits. Having previously managed over 20 staff Carol has vast experience of mentoring and appraising staff. In her role as volunteer with HWCB Carol has undertaken training to be a representative of HWCB’s ‘Enter & View’ team and also received training to help promote HWCB, giving presentations to local community groups.

Carol’s years of experience working in the Local Government sector and skills liaising with other organisations, including gaining support and funding for a variety of activities such as setting up a community centre, starting a dementia club and a youth council, greatly benefits the work of Healthwatch Central Bedfordshire.

Hayley Leeson

Haylee is a Youth Director of Healthwatch Central Bedfordshire

“Hello I’m Haylee Leeson, I’m 13 years old. I am a member of Central Bedfordshire Youth Parliament.”

“I have been elected to sit on Healthwatch as a young person’s representative. I like to help people and the community young to old, I’m responsible and organised.”

Young Healthwatch volunteer

Valentina Kalanyos

Valentina is a Youth Director of Healthwatch Central Bedfordshire

“My name is Valentina, I’m one of the Youth Directors for Healthwatch Central Beds and I’m also the chair of the Central Bedfordshire Youth Parliament.”

“I absolutely love working with people and helping the community. I’m very passionate about my work with Young Healthwatch and all my social and activism work.

My goal as a Youth Director will be to collaborate with Healthwatch on an even bigger level than before and keep making as much positive change.”