The Big Hire: Campbell Chalmers, RNIB Scotland

Brought up on a farm, the new director of the charity decided nevertheless to become a nurse, he tells Rebecca Cooney

Campbell Chalmers
Campbell Chalmers

When Campbell Chalmers, the newly appointed director of RNIB Scotland, told his parents he wanted to become a nurse, they were horrified.

"I was brought up on my parents' farm, just outside Stirling, and I loved working with animals - but I realised I enjoyed working with people more," he says.

But Chalmers pursued his ambition - and his health background, he says, has helped to define his plans for RNIB Scotland. "One thing that surprised me the most was the statistic that 50 per cent of sight loss is preventable," he says. "I want to start a conversation about how we care for our eyes, even if we don't yet have visual problems - in the same way we think about caring for our teeth."

Chalmers' career has swung between the public and charity sectors. In 2000 he became the director of advice and support at the charity Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland, leaving to join NHS Lanarkshire seven years later. One of the most striking differences between the two employers, he says, is the sheer scale of the organisations.

"As charities go, the RNIB is quite large, but the NHS is a massive organisation and trying to influence it is always a big challenge," he says. "So when you're working in the voluntary sector you've got much more opportunity to influence and drive things forward. And what I particularly like about the RNIB is that it's a member-led organisation.

"I think meaningful patient involvement within the NHS is still evolving. I think it's doing a good job and I'd never knock the NHS, but I think the voluntary sector has that more at its heart."

Chalmers moved to NHS Lanarkshire as a stroke nurse consultant in 2007 and worked on the trust's community-based initiatives, helping people who had suffered strokes to feel empowered by regaining their independence and confidence.

And it is this experience that he thinks is one of the key things he'll brings to the RNIB role.

"I hope I'm bringing a breadth of experience and knowledge from both sectors - and I like to think I've got a good understanding of working with, listening to and supporting people with an impairment," he says.

The appeal of the job, he says, is much the same as what pulled him into nursing in the first place.

"If you can help somebody on their life journey, if you can make a small difference, it's always worthwhile and the job satisfaction you get is incredible," he says.

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