NHS Leadership Academy Digital Team

Peter Kavanagh

Peter Kavanagh is 25 years old and has a job with the NHS in mid-level management. He is Band 8a and the chief operating officer would know him. Superficially he performs well, has a ‘chiselled’ appearance and dresses immaculately, but he suffers from high-functioning autism. He is fully aware of this and understands some of the implications, but he has not told his colleagues. The job suits him as it is in finance – he deals with numbers and there is an element of order and ‘spread-sheet’ work that he can perform very well. He is happy when there is a very clear structure, but he rarely goes out on ‘random’ nights out with colleagues and becomes anxious when there are sudden or unexpected changes to his working day. They think he is just shy…and a bit boring. He has a long-term relationship with Ben who is a counter-balance as he works in the arts and travels a lot. He understands and supports Peter though and they have a strong bond.

Point of conflict

Peter’s high-functioning autism is in effect hidden from his workplace and isn’t recognised when he’s dealing with the trauma of losing his partner. As Peter hasn’t disclosed his problems, his boss and colleagues don’t always understand him. There is the possibility of promotion and re-structuring and his boss doesn’t appreciate that with a lack of clarity this is a source of great anxiety to Peter and not excitement. In the trauma of A and E, Peter’s silence and lack of emotion is misinterpreted as coping. The reality is far from this.

Story arc in Edward Jenner Programme

Series 1 sees Peter at work within the NHS and explores the various leadership issues he encounters with his line manager and colleagues e.g when the order and structure he craves is disrupted.

Series 2 is much more dramatic and sees Peter become a ‘service user’ as he faces the trauma of losing his partner Ben in A and E after a dreadful car accident. Ben dies through no fault of the team at A and E. His injuries are too severe. The issues he faces are how a man with high functioning autism should be recognised and helped with a major trauma in A and E and how medical staff need to look for ‘hidden’ disability. Peter clams up. He is unable to communicate with anyone and goes home alone to cope. As he works for the NHS – his line manager is now also involved in dealing with a bereaved team member who may on the surface appear fine but is failing to perform. He needs both support from HR and with accessing local mental health support.