Mental health network

Diversity holds the key to improved care and services | Carolyn Regan

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Carolyn Regan

Providing public services that are representative of the diverse communities in which we live is the way forward for patients and staff alike, explains Carolyn Regan, chief executive of West London Mental Health Trust. 

Diversity in healthcare is one of our greatest strengths and should be celebrated. At West London Mental Health NHS Trust, we know that diversity enriches and enhances our services. 

Providing high-quality healthcare is our currency and we believe that diversity makes us a richer organisation. Shamefully, the current public narrative doesn’t support this position and does little to make those in the communities we serve more likely to seek help when they need it.

We can challenge that by openly celebrating our diversity. Without the 47 per cent of our staff from a black and minority ethnic (BME) background, we simply couldn’t function at all. 

Our trust is one of the most diverse in the country and we work in one of the most diverse and transient populations in England. Not only does our diversity give us vast strength in experience and from a wide range of backgrounds, but we also have a duty to make sure that all providers of essential health and care public services are representative of those they serve. 

Every single day we see that a patient’s successful recovery and rehabilitation is about developing a strong therapeutic relationship and it is crucial that patients and carers see and interact with public services that reflect their experience and community. With 52 per cent  of our patients coming from an ethnic minority background, I am proud to say that we are performing well against that aspiration.

I want the trust to be the workplace of choice for staff, regardless of sex, gender, gender expression and gender identity, sexual orientation, age, race, religious beliefs, pregnancy, marital status or disability status, and we are tirelessly working to fulfil this ambition.

We have in place a successful programme to develop leadership skills among our BME staff, with 12 leaders graduating from the programme being promoted to a more senior role. We want to see more BME leaders in senior roles across the trust and across all public services. 

We know we are heading in the right direction. Our staff survey results show an increase to 73 per cent (up from 66 per cent the year before) in the proportion of our BME workforce who believe that the trust provides equal opportunities for career progression or promotion. Not satisfied, we want that figure to continue to improve, and recently celebrated Black History Month with staff across our sites.

In recent months, we have become Stonewall Champions and have put in place a rainbow lanyards initiative to identify staff who are open to discussions about sexuality. I personally have been given the honour of being listed in the 2017 OUTstanding Global Leading Public Sector LGBT+ Executives list – recognition of the whole organisation’s work, not just of one person. We are one of the few trusts who have a strong presence at the annual PRIDE march and have robust guidance in place for staff caring for trans patients. 

Of course, we also have a role in making sure our patients are supported as well. We have an LGBTQ user group within Hounslow children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) where young people, as service users, have produced narratives of their experience of coming out and formed a voluntary support group. This group provides valuable insight on how we can improve the information we make available about our services.

We are also committed to encouraging more adults with learning disabilities to work in healthcare. From September next year, we will welcome 12 young adults with learning disabilities for work experience placements. The aim will be to support these young people to gain knowledge and skills, with a view to them ultimately entering full-time paid employment.

But we must and can do more. Not just in West London, but we are setting an example to public services everywhere of the power diversity gives us in seeking to improve services.

We aspire to be a truly inclusive organisation where everyone can contribute and grow and realise lifelong ambitions without prejudice or adversity. There is more we can do for staff, patients, service users and carers alike and I am excited about what we can achieve next.

Carolyn Regan is chief executive of West London Mental Health NHS Trust, a member of the Mental Health Network. Follow the trust on Twitter @WLMHT

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