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Date posted: 4th March 2020
Thomas Pocklington Trust, a national charity dedicated to supporting blind and partially sighted people, has appointed three new trustees to its board. Raj Mehta, Judith Potts and Sir James Pickthorn Bt were officially sworn on to the board at a meeting this week.
Mervyn Williamson, Chair of the board at Thomas Pocklington Trust, said:
“I am delighted to welcome Judith, Raj and James to the board. They each bring a wealth of experience in different areas that, I am sure, will be a real asset to our team.”
Raj Mehta was a commercially-focused experienced procurement and IT business leader with an excellent track record of delivering business results, with deep oil industry and corporate sector knowledge. During his 35+ years at BP he held a variety of senior leadership roles within IT and procurement, delivered numerous transformation programs, managed a range of service organisations and dealt with hundreds of suppliers.
Since retiring, Raj has been pursuing his passion in disability and health matters. Indeed, being blind himself, Raj brings a unique and diverse perspective to the many roles he currently holds within the health and voluntary sectors, serving an advisor, non-executive director, trustee, mentor and trainer.
On joining the TPT board, Raj said: “Most of my life I have been blind and as such have a personal understanding of lived experience and the impact of such a sensory loss.”
Raj believes early, strong practical and emotional support is vital in helping every blind and partially sighted individual realise their potential and live full, independent lives as valued members of society.
Raj added: “TPT has inspiring ambitions and I look forward to making a significant contribution, building on our commitment to education, employment and engagement. I am delighted to be on the collaborative board and look forward to working with the extraordinary team at TPT to achieve even greater success in making every day better for blind and partially sighted people.”
Having watched how Charles Bonnet Syndrome (CBS) tormented her mother’s final years – with no support available and too few healthcare givers aware of CBS – Judith Potts resolved to raise awareness of this ‘orphan’ condition. She launched Esme’s Umbrella (named in tribute to her mother) at the House of Commons in November 2015, with Dr Dominic Ffytche, the sole, globally-acknowledged expert in CBS and visual hallucinations, as her medical adviser.
CBS is a condition which can develop in someone, of any age, when over 60% of sight is lost. This can be from one of the eye diseases, stroke, cancer, diabetes or other condition which damages the optic nerve or pathway. As sight diminishes, messages from the retina to the visual cortex, slow or stop entirely. However, the brain does not – it fires up and creates its own vivid, silent, visual hallucinations, which can range from disturbing to terrifying.
Judith said: “When my mother first developed CBS there was very little known or understood about the condition. Too many people lived in frightened silence, because they thought, incorrectly, the hallucinations were caused by a mental health issue. Misdiagnosis by GPs and hospital doctors was – and is – extremely common. People who do share their experiences are, all too often, ushered down the mental health pathway – thus wasting precious NHS resources and causing more distress.
“Surveys show us that sight is the sense people fear losing the most and should that happen, we need people to cushion the fall. The holistic work of TPT goes hand-in-hand with that of Esme’s Umbrella – after all – if there was no sight loss there would be no CBS.”
She continued: “I look forward very much to joining the Board of TPT and helping to ensure that the important work of the charity, supporting blind and partially sighted people to live the life they choose, receives the wider audience that it deserves.”
Due to Judith’s campaigning, CBS has been included – for the first time – in the World Health Organisation’s taxonomy of diseases and conditions, called ICD 11. She has found funding for CBS research projects, has spoken at hundreds of events and submitted papers to medical journals such as ‘The Ophthalmologist’. CBS is now included in the training for Eye Clinic Liaison Officers (ECLO) and Rehabilitation Officers for the Visually Impaired (ROVI), who provide practical and emotional support for people recently diagnosed with an eye condition. She hopes to establish specialist CBS nurses in 2020 and add CBS to all medical training.
For nine years she wrote an online Health Column for The Telegraph and, when Esme was diagnosed with CBS, Judith added the condition to her usual subject of cancer.
Formerly an actress, working under her maiden name, Judith Fielding, she founded Act One to bring drama classes to children in schools, pre-schools and nurseries. She writes plays for young children and teaches the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art examination syllabus. She coaches young actors in voice, character and audition technique, as well as using the skills of the performing arts to coach senior executives in presentation technique.
Sir James Pickthorn Bt brings a wealth of experience in property development to the board. James established Pickthorn Estate Agent and Chartered Surveyors in 1994 which specialises in offices and shops, bars and restaurants in the City and West End of London.
James said: “I look forward to sharing my property expertise with TPT to help raise more funds for the charity from its investments and property portfolio, thereby maximising the benefit of the charity to blind and partially sighted people across the UK.”
As well as Thomas Pocklington Trust, James is a trustee of the Baronets Trust which funds prisoners to teach other prisoners to read. He has also been a trustee of the Honourable Artillery Company, the purpose of which is setting out soldiers in defence of the realm.
The Pickthorn Baronetcy, of Orford in Suffolk, was created in 1959 for James’ grandfather Kenneth Pickthorn MP. James is the third Baronet and lives with his wife Clare in London.