12 October 2020
I’m writing from the North West London EDI Workstream and to support Black History Month.
As you can see in this attached calendar, there is plenty going on to discuss and think about; all staff are invited to participate because it’s about learning and debate, ideas and opinions (there’s even one about whether we should still say ‘BAME’ when there is so much diversity within that ‘shorthand’ expression.)
I’m also pleased to enclose a ‘life story’ from a member of my own Trust, Tanique Reynolds – it’s a great positive, insightful piece, showing the importance of the people she met on her journey, but who also wants to see some change; thank you Tanique!
Two years ago at my Trust's Awards Ceremony the Chair’s Special Award went to “the Windrush Generation” (and was accepted by Cecelia Amin, then RCN President and Rami Jumnoodoo, Chair of our Staff side). Most significantly it was met with a huge ovation from all the 400 people there because the NHS would not be what it has become without that generation.
So Black History Month is an opportunity for everyone to learn about each other, and think about what each person brings. It’s especially important in the NWL NHS as our workforce is 50% BAME, with just under 30k of our 60k workforce.
When I started nursing, 37 years ago, we were still fighting for women’s equality – it is staggering to think that equal pay for men and women doing the same job was a revolutionary idea and women’s leadership of large organisations was seen as something at best odd or at worst emotionally disastrous!
Those of us who qualified in that time and built careers, were shaped by those events, but not deterred; we overcame obstacles – sometimes individually but we also won support for change.
That’s why BHM is inspiring; remembering those real BAME champions and events, people who became leaders, and those who heroically delivered care every day.
The Black Lives Matter events have a number of striking elements: outrage at shocking treatment but with protestors from all races and ethnicities. I will never forget Patrick Hutchinson, the black man who rescued the white counter protestor – there is now a momentum for change that finds support everywhere. And that’s a sign that the time is right for NHS change too.
We believe in Equality for all; Diversity because the NHS sees more, and more clearly, through different eyes; and Inclusion so none are excluded from opportunity, all are heard and all can prosper.
We know we have to improve; the local NHS should reflect our workforce and communities, and make sure NHS processes for staff do not discriminate (like disciplinaries) but also to address those “snowy white peaks”; that we understand unconscious bias and unravel it, including through schemes like Reverse Mentoring, where senior leaders hear directly and personally from BAME staff over extended periods of time.
And we have a means of driving to that destination:
- We have a vibrant, active BAME Chairs network; so important as it gathers everyone’s experience, and was established to organise for improvement
- The Programme Board and governance is in place (the first meeting this month)
- And we’re linked to the London Race Equality strategy.
But this is about making a change that is overdue – and that applies to all protected characteristics – because that is better for everyone.