Diversity matters

07 November 2017

We look at the winners of this year’s Mary Seacole Awards, together with the vital issues raised at the ceremony.

The Mary Seacole Awards have a dual purpose. They directly provide funding for healthcare projects and activities that will benefit and improve the health of people from black and minority ethnic (BME) communities. Additionally, they provide an opportunity for individuals to be recognised for their outstanding work in the BME community, with awardees benefiting from a career development programme.  


Equality yet to be reached

Work is still needed to ensure that people from different backgrounds have the same opportunities while employed in the NHS. The claim comes from the Mary Seacole Awards ceremony, which was held in London in October.

The event was hosted by Unite, and Obi Amadi, lead professional officer for strategy, policy and equalities, gave the opening remarks. Obi said: ‘From January this year, we will have had a total of 35 development awards and 27 leadership awards. This represents an inspiring body of work, and we will showcase that legacy.’

Deborah Isaac, senior lecturer for mental health nursing at the University of Greenwich, presented her research at the event, having received a leadership award last year. Her project seeks to ‘highlight the visibility, yet invisibility’ of people from BME backgrounds in the NHS.

‘One in five people working in the NHS is from a BME background; however, BME staff remain invisible in senior and managerial roles,’ she said.

‘Those from a BME background are three times less likely to be Band 8 and 9 – I really can’t understand why we are still talking about this.’

Following focus groups, her research recommends transparency in job advertisements, identifying career enhancement and potentially having equal opportunities consultants to work with the NHS.

The keynote speech at the event was given by Kathy Sienko, who was a Mary Seacole Leadership Scholar in 2000 and has since gone on to receive various awards, including an OBE for services to healthcare in the UK. She addressed the winners of the Mary Seacole Awards for 2017-18, who had just been announced. The awardees this year are Dorcas Gwata and Bertha Ochieng, who received leadership awards. Saeideh Saeidi, Faye Bruce and Liza Mitchell received development awards. (See panel, right, for their winning projects).

Kathy said: ‘The snowy peaks of the NHS are starting to change colour and you are part of that challenge.’

The awards are funded by Health Education England and are awarded in association with Unite, the RCM, the RCN and Unison, with support from NHS Employers.

The winners (2017-18)

Leadership Awardees

Dorcas Gwata is clinical lead at the Integrated Gangs Unit for Westminster CAMHS at the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust. 

Project: Improving leadership in mental health interventions for adolescents from African and Middle Eastern backgrounds who are affected by gang culture and are vulnerable, violent and exploited in Westminster.


Bertha Ochieng is associate professor for nursing and midwifery at De Montfort University in Leicester. 

Project: Meeting the nutritional needs of BME children aged 0 to 5, developing an evidence-based training tool for weight management.


Development Awardees

Saeideh Saeidi is service evaluation manager for Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. 

Project: Ethnicity matters: cultural competence in mental healthcare.


Faye Bruce is senior lecturer and programme leader in nursing at Manchester Metropolitan University. 

Project: Developing health literacy among Caribbean and African faith leaders and champions to influence health decision-making at strategic levels.


Liza Mitchell is skin cancer research nurse at Barts School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London and lecturer at the School of Health and Social Care at London South Bank University. 

Project: Raising knowledge and awareness of skin conditions and skin cancer in the BME patient population associated with organ transplantation and other immunosuppressive conditions.