Governing Body

Our Governing Body meetings are open to the public. You are welcome to observe and there will be an opportunity to ask questions.

Caroline Gitsham – Lay Member

I have over 30 years’ experience working in the Public Sector, including 15 years working at an Executive Level. I am passionate about customer service and making a difference and have worked with a variety of partners across my career including working in an advisory capacity to the government and other bodies. I have managed a range of complex services and a number of new and innovative service offers have been developed under my leadership, many of which are award winning with tangible outcomes. I have experience of managing significant resources in challenging environments across a range of agendas. I have also led on a number of significant key corporate agendas.

My previous employer describes me as ‘a consistent top quartile performer, demonstrating passionate, energised leadership, a role model for others and a force for positive change. Caroline brings a different dynamic, she challenges the norm and encourages a greater focus on cultural and values alignment, outcomes monitoring and social impact. Her strengths are many, she has an extraordinary belief in people and their ability to achieve their potential. A supportive leader, well networked who enjoys challenges and variety’.

Dr Ali Tahmassebi – Strategic Clinical Lead

Appointed on 9 October 2015. Dr Tahmassebi’s term of office expires in October 2018.

Key strengths

Dr Tahmassebi has a specialist interest in improving quality in primary care, and providing challenge to ensure quality is a leading driver for change. He encourages innovation and promotes a culture of joint working between organisations and practices. He also has extensive knowledge of service redesign.


A GP since 1999, Dr Tahmassebi has led the Langbaurgh locality since 2006, engaging closely with practices and clinicians in making Practice Based Commissioning (PBC) and later the CCG successful. He has played a key role in the development of services including community services, MSK integration, medicines management and the role of pharmacists. He is also the clinical lead for the CCG’s IMProVE programme.

Other committee membership

Chair of Health Inequalities Steering Group and Co-Chair of the Clinical Executive Steering Group, Locality Lead for Langbaurgh.

Dr Janet Walker – Chair

Reappointed as Governing Body member 9 October 2015 and elected as Governing Body Chair in November 2014. Dr Walker’s term of office expires in November 2017.

Key strengths

Dr Walker has specialist interests in medicines optimisation, palliative care and children and young people. Since becoming Chair she has been working to increase patient and public engagement, with amongst others, the locality Patient Participation Groups (PPG) and the Patient and Public Advisory Group (PPAG). She is passionate about partnership working.


Dr Walker has been a Teesside GP working in Eston since 1998. She played an active role in Practice Based Commissioning (PBC) as group chair, before becoming the lead for the Greater Eston Pathfinder.

Other committee membership

Member of Remuneration Committee; Tees Medicines Governance Group, Non-voting member of Primary Care Commissioning Committee. Locality Lead for Eston. Redcar and Eston, and Midldlesbrough PPGs. Dr Walker also attends the Patient and Public Advisory Group (PPAG) .

Dr Mike Milner – GP Member

Appointed on 9 October 2015. Dr Milner’s term of office expires in October 2018.

Key strengths

Dr Milner has extensive experience in out of hours care services and general medical practice.


Dr Milner has been a GP since 1982 and has special interests in epilepsy and urgent care. Involved in the Langbaurgh Pathfinder and PCG for many years, he is the Clinical Lead for the NHS South Tees CCG Systems Resilience Group workstream and is actively involved in the delivery of the Urgent Care Strategy.

Other committee membership

Member of Urgent Care Chairs’ Network; Chair of Systems Resilience Group (SRG) and member of Quality, Performance and Finance Committee.

Accountable Officer – Dr Neil O’Brien

Dr O’Brien has been a local GP in Chester-le-Street for 16 years. He has developed a special interest in cardiology and has previously worked as a GP with special interest in this area. Neil is a practicing clinician which strengthens his influence with GP practices and other clinicians. Neil has also been a director of the AHSN and was clinical lead of the Better Health Programme. Neil continues to work with the STP oversight group in order to optimise the effectiveness of regional transformation and STP delivery. In October 2018, Dr Neil O’Brien was been chosen to head a joint leadership and management team to oversee NHS North Durham CCG, NHS Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield CCG, NHS South Tees CCG, NHS Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees CCG and NHS Darlington CCG.

The five CCGs have been moving towards working more collaboratively since early 2018, with the aim of combining skills and resources to improve delivery. The appointment of Dr O’Brien is the next step to achieve this. Dr O’Brien will continue to work with hospital trust and local authority partners to develop arrangements for the planning and provision of primary and community care, and health and social care integration.

Dr Vaishali Nanda- GP Member

Appointed on 9 October 2015. Dr Nanda’s term of office expires in October 2018.

Key strengths

Dr Nanda is ready to adapt to change and strives to improve services for patients. She has a good understanding of challenges facing primary care and has a commitment to understanding and improving the quality of care. She works with colleagues to improve the morale of staff delivering care.


Dr Nanda is a GP at Discovery Practice, Middlesbrough and has practiced as a GP since 2005. She is passionate about improving services; this passion has led to working beyond her own practice and she is the GP Quality Lead for the CCG. Within this role she works with the CCG’s major providers, the two local authorities, NHS England’s Area Team and primary care.

Other committee membership

Locality Clinical Lead for Middlesbrough; Member of Health Inequalities Steering Group and Co-Chair of the Clinical Executive Steering Group; Chair of Clinical Quality Review Groups.

Gary Groom – Lay Member

Key strengths

Mr Groom has significant experience of public and private sector partnership working, he has chaired and developed a variety of strategic partnerships focused on quality improvement, skills and employability across the Tees Valley and the North East.


With twenty-six-years’ experience working in the public sector for Further Education and Skills Mr Groom has held Strategic management and Leadership roles including the role of Principal and Chief Executive at Redcar & Cleveland College from 2005 to 2014.

Latterly Mr Groom has created his own successful business which has provided Interim leadership supporting Colleges during times of transformation and change and has also developed a Celebrancy service for lifetime events.

He has a particular interest in the strategic provision of health services in communities, together with the benefits of sustained proactive and preventative approaches to the provision of healthcare and is the Lay member for Governance & Risk.

Other Committee membership.

Chair of Governance & Risk committee, Member of Audit Committee, member of Primary Care Commissioning Committee, member of CCG Board.

Graeme Niven – Chief Finance Officer


Mr Niven is an experienced NHS Executive Director and has worked on Teesside since 2003. He qualified as a Chartered Institute of Management Accountant in 1994. He was appointed as Chief Finance Officer in April 2013 following a period as Chief Finance Officer Designate for the CCG. He has worked in the NHS for 32 years in varying roles including in a community and mental health provider, regional role and commissioning roles.

Jean Golightly – Executive Nurse

Appointed on 25 April 2013

Key strengths

Ms Golightly has extensive healthcare experience including management of clinical services, clinical governance, risk management and education.


Ms Golightly has over 20 years’ experience in a variety of healthcare and geographic settings, including Europe and the United States. More recently she was working in acute hospital trusts prior to joining the CCG. She is the Executive Lead for Learning Disability.

Other committee membership

Member of Quality, Performance and Finance Committee; Governance and Risk Committee and Primary Care Commissioning Committee.

Mrs Karen Dales – Lay Member

Appointed in September 2015 for three years.

Key strengths

Mrs Dales has 30 years’ experience of working in the public sector including Health, Social Care, Local Government and Education.


A qualified accountant, her roles have included Finance Director, planning, policy development, performance, governance, procurement and contract management as well as managerial responsibility for HR, data services, facilities and IT.

She is currently Assistant Principal: Corporate Services at Hartlepool College of Further Education.

Other committee membership

Chiar of Governance and Risk Committee and Member of Primary Care Commissioning Committee, Audit Committee and Remuneration Committee.