Former Earth Centre boss ready to get Doncaster hospital trust on a sustainable footing

Suzy Brain England
Suzy Brain England

Suzy Brain England is no stranger to high profile jobs in Doncaster.

Suzy Brain England is no stranger to high profile jobs in Doncaster.

Nearly 20 years ago, she hit the headlines in the borough when she arrived at the already-troubled Earth Centre visitor attraction, at Denaby Main, on a mission to turn it around.

She arrived with a plan, but the site could not be saved in the long term as the green showcase it was originally planned to be - but it still remains as an outdoor activities centre used by schools from all across the country.

She is back again in another high profile post, and this time she is in charge of the borough's hospital, as the chairman of the board of governors at the Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals Trust.

Again she is looking to bring in changes - but this time they will be about forging closer ties with other organisations across the region at a time of financial difficulty.

It is the latest role in a varied career for Ms Brain England, who originally started off in local journalism after graduating fro Manchester University with a degree in religious studies and politics.

After cutting her news teeth on the the Ashton Under Lyme Reporter and the Stalybridge Reporter, she went onto to study for a post graduate business degree, before working in Fleet Street and becoming an official with the National Union of Journalists.

Returning to Yorkshire as editor of the Leeds Skyrack Express, she moved into a job as a manager with Free Press owners Johnston Press, and worked as the managing director's assistant at Morley Books, before eventually getting a job supplying libraries with books.

She had moved again, to a high powered job with the Training and Enterprise Council, before arriving at the Earth Centre in 2001.

She returned to Doncaster again this year after several non executive director jobs, including chairing the standards committee at the Department of Work and Pensions, which landed her an OBE in 2009, and NHS work at Kirklees and Barnsley.

When the job at Doncaster's hospitals trust arose, she was keen to come back to the borough to work at a high profile hospital.

She said: "It's a big hospital. It has 500 members of staff and a £350million budget. - it is the second largest in the South Yorkshire sub-region. I think its true to say my interest and appointment are very much linked to my view of partnership working.

"We are working at a time when we have to operate more effectively in partership with other health services and local authorities. It is our duty and my job to break down barriers between institutions and and put the focus on the service users and see how we can make access to those services as easy and equitable as possible."

Ms Brain England wants to make sure that there is no post code lottery in South Yorkshire when it comes to treatment.

She is looking to have a system working called an Accountable Care Partnership involving the hospitals, the council, the Doncaster NHS Clinical Commissioning Group and the borough's family doctors.

The hope is it make it easier to access care and result in people having to spend less time in hospital, because of the closer working arrangements making it easier for people to move out, and access a whole range of services from across the public sector.

But Ms Brain England believes the workforce is a big challenge because of shortages and recruitment problems in the NHS.

She was pleased to see that Doncaster recently recruited 33 midwives, which is an area the NHS has struggled to fill. She is happy that they saw Doncaster and Bassetlaw as an attractive place to come.

She said the hospital had put on afternoon tea for the midwives to make them feel welcome. She feels trusts have to be innovative to recruit, and thinks that it has to be shown that Doncaster is a nice place to work.

She points to the end of bursaries for trainee nurses, and the move to loans, as a factor that may have put some nurses off, particularly more mature people who may have traditionally come into the job.

But she thinks there are reasons to be positive

.She said: "We have got a workforce to be proud of who work together to solve problems, and that is at the heart of our success in Doncaster.

"We care and I like to see that from serving meals to clearning and the care people receive. I don think people want to be in hospital so we see our job as getting them fit to be at home."


It may have failed to take off as a tourist attraction - but its former boss believes the Earth Centre was ahead of its time.

Now, 16 years on, Suzy Brain England believes the Earth Centre was built at a time when ideas such as renewable energy had yet to reach the mainstream.

When she arrived, the venue had been closed, because of poor visitor numbers. The attraction was a Millennium project, and was designed to showcase cutting edge green technology and techniques, on a former coal mine site.

She re-opened it in the July.

She said: "It was tough, because the focus had been on being a visitor attraction to promote sustainable development, and in 2001, I don't think views on that were the same as they are now, and recycling was not what it is today.

"We have visible renewable energy in South Yorkshire now, but I think that back then it was only a concept.

"It was right at the forefront of promoting a concept that we now think of as very relevant. But the problem was, how do you generate income from a concept that was not very popular?

"We tried to go away from a visitor attraction like a museum and concentrated on activties like big bank holiday events. But by the second and third years, the weather had taken its toll as it was a completely outdoor attraction on a 300 acre site. It was hard to make it sustainable, and that was why I suggested they make it an education centre rather than a visitor attraction."

The Earth Centre site re-opened as Kingswood Dearne Valley, a state-of-the-art activity centre, in 2012, and continues to operate, being used for outdoor activities by groups including school parties.