Opinion

Inspiring diversity and inclusion in the NHS

06 December 2019

Pamela Shaw (pictured left), practice educator, health visitor and Queen’s Nurse, talks about winning an award, what it means to her, and the work still to be done.

In October, I was delighted and honoured to receive the National BAME Health & Care (BAMEHC) Award in the category ‘Inspiring diversity and inclusion lead’.

It means so much for the many years I have contributed to the NHS to be recognised in this way, particularly the work I have done tirelessly and enthusiastically to raise the profile and needs of the BAME community.

This included being involved with my organisation’s existing systems, contributing to policy and sharing best practice. I did the latter through being a union rep, as well as through groups such as the equality, diversity and inclusion strategy group, inspiring cultures staff networks, and BAME inclusive networks external to the organisation. Involvement in these groups has enabled me to work strategically as well as directly with staff to ensure the equality and inclusive agenda is central to daily practice.

Highlighting talent

The BAMEHC Awards have been developed to celebrate excellence and leadership across the UK that supports BAME staff and improves services for BAME communities. The awards highlight talent as well as the excellent work BAME staff do in the workplace and wider society to create a community of learning and a supportive network for ongoing acknowledgement and career progression.

However, research highlights the challenges that remain for BAME staff due to lack of representation at senior levels and difficulty accessing career opportunities. Although there are pockets of good practice in some organisations, more needs to be done to raise the profile of BAME staff by celebrating their achievements, developing future leaders and redressing the balance.

My interest in raising the profile of BAME leaders started in 2009 when I received a Mary Seacole Development Award to create a DVD and research paper. This project sought to portray positive images of BAME role models in Yorkshire and their contributions to the NHS. The resulting DVD powerfully depicted real-life stories to be used to support change in others.

The DVD described the positive influences, factors and barriers that affected participants’ careers and highlighted the importance of equality training taking place in conjunction with systems to enable BAME aspirations and leadership. Self-motivation was a key factor, while being able to cope with work-life balance was the biggest challenge for many of the participants.

We need to raise the profile of BAME staff by celebrating their achievements, developing future leaders and redressing the balance

Role models wanted 

Overall, most of the participants felt that they had achieved their aims, and this was due to inner qualities such as determination, self-sacrifice, self-belief, motivation and hard work. In 2013, I completed a follow-up study whose outcome reflected those of larger studies on BAME leadership in the NHS.

Those who participated in the development of the DVD felt that having visible BAME role models and career mentoring were crucial for encouraging progress.

I believe that having an effective monitoring system is important for identifying discrimination based on race and/or ethnicity and looking at ways to address these. The Workforce Race Equality Standard Implementation 
was introduced as a rigorous tool to address the disparity between white and BAME NHS staff.

There is clear and compelling evidence for the NHS to cultivate a more diverse and effective leadership in order to achieve meaningful inclusion and high-quality care.

Stepping stones to career success

The BAMEHC Awards have broad support across the professional bodies in health and social care and important benefits for organisations involved in the provision of care. It is to this end that one of the missions of the awards is to provide support to the winners beyond the ceremony by an agreed collaboration with the NHS Leadership Academy to provide ‘wraparound’ career development and network to the winners which includes:

  • Career planning advice
  • Signposting attendees to relevant resources and training
  • Opportunities to participate in online peer support network
  • Mentoring or coaching sessions with senior BAME leaders in health and care fields.  

I am appreciative to those who have taken time out of their busy day to nominate me and to my employer’s practical support to attend the event, and am grateful to those who have continuously supported me over the years.    

Pamela Shaw, practice educator, health visitor and Queen’s Nurse. 

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