Tom McLaughlan is a Non-Executive Chair at chit-chat and recently retired Managing Director of European Government Relations at Accenture. During his time with Accenture, Tom McLaughlan led a team of people working across the region to support the company’s growth. He retired early at the end of June 2020 and is now focused on using his skills, pro bono, in the third sector, becoming non-exec Chair of chit-chat in July and a Trustee at Epilepsy Research UK in September.

I was 19 when I was diagnosed as epileptic and once I was controlled epilepsy meant little more than free prescriptions. As long as I took my Phenytoin, I could do anything I wanted. In August 2017, however, after a 20-yearlong seizure-free streak, my life was interrupted by a breakthrough seizure whilst driving, and again in January of this year when I had my first experience of status epilepticus.

Epilepsy still means free prescriptions, but it means an awful lot more to me now too. It means wanting to understand the linkages with comorbidities (I take Humira and methotrexate for ankylosing spondylitis). It means wanting to see epileptics treated holistically with professionals speaking to each other as a matter of course (in my case neurologists and rheumatologists). It means wanting to secure a step-change in the profile of the epilepsy research agenda and of the researchers themselves – breakthrough work rather than breakthrough seizures. And, of course, I want it to stop threatening the life I – and the many, many others like me – want to lead.

Professionally I’ve been very fortunate, enjoying the luxury of being paid for a hobby – politics. I’ve worked in government affairs and wider communications since 1987, starting off in the civil nuclear industry when I also had the good fortune to work internationally twice – four years seconded to the FCO as Atomic Energy Counsellor at our Tokyo embassy, and two years running BNFL’s public affairs practice in Brussels. After three years as Communications Director at The Royal Academy of Engineering (where I helped reposition the organisation), I joined Accenture in 2006 as a managing director, initially to create and lead a UK government relations programme before being asked to create a Europe-wide practice.

I planned to take early retirement at the end of this calendar year but decided to bring it forward because of how the year kicked off. And so now I’ve entered my third age during which I intend to commit myself to causes close to my heart – I chair chit-chat, a start-up social enterprise launched during the pandemic and hopefully will become a trustee of Epilepsy Research UK! And in between times I will either be on the hills with my wife Barbara and our two German Wirehaired Pointers, Flo and Theo, or in the built environment pursuing my love of photography.