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DIANA CLARKE

PUBLISHED: 18:18 24 June 2008 | UPDATED: 09:00 13 July 2010

In her latest Face to Face interview, Karen Bethell talks to former North Norfolk Primary Care Trust chief executive Diana Clarke, who, after taking early retirement from the NHS, decided to throw herself into community life as chairman of the Griffon Area Partnership .

In her latest Face to Face interview, Karen Bethell talks to former North Norfolk Primary Care Trust chief executive Diana Clarke, who, after taking early retirement from the NHS, decided to throw herself into community life as chairman of the Griffon Area Partnership . . .

Lancashire-born Diana moved to Norfolk as a youngster, attending Blyth Girls Grammar School in Norwich.

After her childhood dream of being an obstetrician was dashed when she failed to get the required A Level grades to study medicine, she decided to accept a place on a combined science degree course at Leicester University.

Diana took a year out from her studies to travel to Canada with future husband David, who was also at Leicester working on a PHD in chemistry.

The couple, who met as St John Ambulance cadets in 1969 and married at Lakenham in 1976, then returned to Norfolk, with David taking a teaching job at a Norwich high school, and Diana finishing her degree before joining the NHS as a manager for two city health centres.

She went on to work as administrator of Whitlingham Hospital, near Norwich, before moving to Colchester, where she was business manager for North East Essex Health Authority.

After a stint working as director of planning at Tower Hamlets, London, Diana took on a similar role for Norfolk Health Authority. A spell as deputy chief executive of North Essex Health Authority followed, with Diana returning to Norfolk permanently when she was made chief executive of North Norfolk Primary Care Trust in 1999.

Since taking early retirement 3 years ago, Diana has worked as a freelance health and social care management consultant.

Keen to get involved in community affairs, she took on the role of Griffon Area Partnership chairman in October of last year.

She also recently became a trustee of North Walsham-based young people's charity the Benjamin Foundation, is a lifelong St John Ambulance member, and, in her spare time, enjoys skiing, travel, gardening and playing golf.

What's the best thing about your job?

Being chairman is a voluntary role rather than a job, and what I love about it is getting involved in projects that are new to me. From heritage, to arts and culture, I do things that allow me to meet lots of different people from all walks of life.

And the worst?

Not having enough money to do all the things that North Walsham and the surrounding villages want us to do.

What is the one possession you would save if your house was on fire?

Probably my laptop as it has got lots of important things on it, including family photos and friends' email addresses. But I would also save a blanket given to me when I got married. It's like a photo album as it is covered in badges I've collected from all the places I've been.

Where do you go to unwind?

In my garden, or to the gym. I do body combat and body pump and the physical activity always helps.

What is your favourite Norfolk building?

Holkham Hall, for lots of reasons. I think it's a fantastic building with an amazing history, and my father, who was a carpenter, worked there in the 1980s and 90s. But, most importantly, it is where Norfolk St John Ambulance holds its annual camp. All the family are St John members, so it is associated with many memories throughout my life.

Have you ever done anything outrageous?

Lots of things, but none I'd admit to!

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I would like to be able to relax. I am always on the go and can never sit still - there is always something I want to do, or think I ought to do.

What is your proudest moment?

Having my two children, Hannah and David.

And your greatest achievement?

Becoming a woman chief executive in the NHS - especially in north Norfolk as it is the best place in the country!

Who do you most admire?

It probably sounds a bit cheesy and isn't very politically correct, but I would have to say Her Majesty, the Queen. She has devoted her whole life to her country and, even if you take away all the benefits and privileges, she is still an extraordinary woman.

Do you have any fears or phobias?

Just the usual ones - keeping my children safe and keeping my health.

What makes you angry?

Lots of things, but mostly people's unkind behaviour towards each other - from the way we treat our third world neighbours, to the strong words we might use in anger.

Favourite book, film and TV programme?

The Royal Horticultural Society Encyclopaedia of Plants and Flowers is a book I use all the time, I love chick flicks so my favourite film would be either Love Actually or Bridget Jones's Diary, and I love watching Gardeners' World.

How would you like to be remembered?

Just with affection.


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