New President takes over at end of challenging year

Paul Fenton MBE, CEng, FIHEEM, a highly experienced estates and facilities professional and Chartered Engineer who has worked across both the NHS and commercial sectors in a varied 40-year career, took over from Ian Hinitt as the Institute’s new President at its ‘virtual’ 2020 AGM in December. Talking to HEJ’s editor, Jonathan Baillie, last month, the recent recipient of an MBE for services to the NHS praised estates and facilities professionals across the UK, who had ‘stood shoulder to shoulder’ with medical professionals during the past year as an already stretched NHS battled to treat a growing number COVID-19 patients. As well as reflecting on the past year, and his key goals for IHEEM during his two-year tenure, he looked back on an interesting career journey, which began with a traditional apprenticeship.

Paul Fenton’s current-day role is Director of Estates and Facilities at East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), a sizeable East Anglian acute Trust which provides hospital and community health care services for Colchester, Ipswich, and the surrounding local areas. Formed on 1 July 2018, ESNEFT is the region’s largest NHS organisation, and among its biggest employers, and provides a full range of medical services from Colchester and Ipswich Hospitals, and community hospitals in Aldeburgh, Clacton, Halstead, Harwich, Felixstowe, and Ipswich, plus community services in Suffolk. Both Colchester and Ipswich Hospitals have major A&E departments.

In a very interesting discussion with Paul Fenton, it quickly became clear how much he enjoys his work; he charted how he had progressed from electrical apprentice with Eastern Electricity to his current role, with all the attendant responsibilities and challenges. Having excelled at school in Ipswich in English, Mathematics, and Physics, on leaving school in 1980 he embarked upon a five-year electrical apprenticeship with Eastern Electricity – then both an electricity supplier and major contractor – based at its main Ipswich depot. The training has stood him in excellent stead ever since, and he is a

IHEEM’s new President, Paul Fenton.

firm advocate of apprenticeships. He said: “The electrical training, and the discipline and rigour the apprenticeship afforded (the first 10 months were spent at Eastern Electricity’s residential Harold Hill Training School in Essex), provided a solid foundation for my career. I received a brilliant grounding in electrical engineering, plus the opportunity to work on a very wide range of residential, commercial, and industrial jobs alongside experienced electricians and engineers.”

Apprenticeship developed interpersonal skills

The apprenticeship also further developed his self-confidence and interpersonal skills; he is very much a ‘people’ person – something he increasingly recognised during periods in his career when he had little people management responsibility, and much missed this. He is extremely proud of the 600-strong Estates and Facilities personnel that work for ESNEFT at its two acute hospital sites in Colchester and Ipswich, and at community settings across East Suffolk and North Essex, and told me that at times during the past year, he has found shielding at home – on medical grounds – while continuing to perform his role and communicate with colleagues via facilities such as ‘Zoom’ and ‘Teams’, ‘a little frustrating’. He said: “I much prefer being with the team ‘on the ground’, but am reassured that with a brilliant EFM team, coupled with excellent support for the Trust’s EFM activities from ESNEFT CEO, Nick Hulme, things are in good hands.” He has been shielding, having – ‘out of the blue’ – contracted acute necrotising pancreatitis in late 2018 – an illness so severe it saw him hospitalised for four months, at one stage on life support due to the collapse of both lungs, and it took him several further months recovering at home before he began to feel anything like his best. He had to have his gall bladder removed, and lost three stone, but has happily recovered well.

First sounded out Eastern Electricity apprentices at the Harold Hill training facility in 1980.

The immediate Past National Chairman of HEFMA (the Health Estates & Facilities Management Association), and a respected professional in UK estates and facilities circles, Paul Fenton was first asked if he would serve as IHEEM’s President by current CEO, Pete Sellars, while the latter was President. He agreed to be Vice-President, with a view to

February 2021 Health Estate Journal 13

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