Supporting Black History Month 2023

October is Black History Month. Find out about our events and what your organisation can do to improve equality.

28 September 2023

Black History Month provides an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the invaluable contributions of black people to society and to health and care. It also serves as an opportunity to inspire and empower future generations. This year Black History Month is dedicated to honouring the achievements of black women who are often forgotten.

The theme of ‘Saluting our Sisters’ highlights the crucial role that black women have played in shaping history, inspiring change, and building communities. Across the NHS events are taking place to showcase and celebrate the work of pioneering black women in health and care.

Joan Saddler OBE, director of partnerships and equality, NHS Confederation said; “As we Salute our Sisters’, we celebrate those pioneers from across Britain and the ‘British Empire’ of old, who made the NHS possible. We especially celebrate those who have overcome institutional racism to become its leaders today.

We also acknowledge the huge contribution made by our invisible sisters, undertaking many of the unglamorous and unappreciated jobs in our own workplaces. Let’s take a few minutes to thank them all as a key driving force powering the NHS.”

Sam Allen, chair, Health and Care Women Leaders Network said; As we celebrate this year's Black History Month with the theme "Saluting Our Sisters," we're reminded of the significant contributions made by black women in healthcare and the importance of recognising and celebrating their achievements.

The Health and Care Women Leaders Network will continue to honour and support the remarkable black women working in the healthcare sector. They have not only provided essential care but have also been advocates for underrepresented communities, enriching the healthcare sector.

Black History Month is more than just a reflection; it's a call to action. Let's remember the past, celebrate the present, and work towards a future where all women can succeed, regardless of their background."

What’s happening during Black History Month  

  • Universalise the best: An antiracist model for building healthy communities 
    Our BME Leadership Network is holding its annual lecture on 18 October at the House of Commons with Professor Kevin Fenton and Stephen Timms MP. The lecture will enable NHS leaders to understand and harness the assets and creativity of their local communities in developing their approach to addressing health inequalities. This event has now sold out.   
  • Turning intent into Action
    The NHS Confederation’s Health and Care Women Leaders Network is holding its annual conference on 1 November.
    The event features both Dr Jacqui Dyer and Christiana Melam as keynote speakers. They will share insights into their career journeys while educating delegates on the challenges and triumphs faced by black women in their respective fields. 
  • Black History Month provides an opportunity for leaders to declare that the NHS will not stand for racism going forward. Racism, inequality, injustice within the NHS is not acceptable.

    Five actions for board members and senior leaders

    • Engage with your BME staff networks and listen to the challenges.
    • Implement and demonstrate a zero-tolerance policy on racism and bullying.
    • Encourage more BME staff to become Freedom to Speak Up guardians.
    • Look for disparities within the career development of your staff and work to close gaps through active career management policies.
    • Ensure the diversity of your board reflects the diversity of your staff and service users.

    The evidence

    • The Workforce Race Equality Standard 2022 report indicated that there is an additional 27,500 BME staff compared to the previous year. Whilst this is positive, the survey also indicated that the percentage of BME staff experiencing harassment, bullying and abuse from patients, relatives and the public had increased and only 44.4 per cent of BME NHS staff believe their trust provides equal opportunities for career progression or promotion. 
    • The NHS England Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Improvement Plan seeks to tackle these issues with high impact actions two and six:
      • High impact two requires NHS organisations to embed fair and inclusive recruitment processes and talent management strategies that target under-representation and lack of diversity.
      • High impact action six requires organisations to create an environment that eliminates the conditions in which bullying, discrimination, harassment and physical violence at work occur. To do this, organisations will be required to review data by protected characteristic, including BME and gender, and set reduction targets by March 2024 and implement a plan to improve the staff experience of these groups. 
    • The combatting racial discrimination against nurses, midwives and nursing associates resource, published by NHS England, NHS Confederation and the Nursing and Midwifery Council, provides advice on the action you can take if you witness or experience racism. It also supports those in leadership roles to be inclusive leaders.

    NHS Race and Health Observatory

    The NHS Race and Health Observatory (RHO), which is hosted by the NHS Confederation and supported by NHS England and NHS Improvement, has been set up to investigate the impact of race and ethnicity on people’s health. It works to identify and tackle ethnic inequalities in health and care by facilitating research, making health policy recommendations and enabling long-term transformational change. 

  • Our BME Leadership Network is a member-led network dedicated to establishing a truly diverse NHS leadership by strengthening the voice of black and minority ethnic communities. It aims to bring about sustainable change, so the NHS always delivers high quality universal care to all communities, by supporting members to overcome strategic and operational barriers to delivering equality.

    In response to feedback from its members, the network has: 

    • Launched a new Network of Network Leaders, with nearly 90 chairs of NHS staff BME/BAME networks signed up.
    • Launched a Leadership Mentoring Programme following a successful pilot. 
    • Held a conference ‘Courage in the face of discomfort’ which provided a supportive space for BME leaders and allies to have a full and frank conversation on the topic of antiracist leadership.

    Coming up:

    • A leadership development masterclass, ‘Equity by design’, designed and delivered exclusively for the network’s members. 
    • A publication highlighting existing good anti-racist leadership practice and examining the evidence base that supports anti-racism as a service improvement tool in the NHS. 

    The BME Leadership Network has nearly 1,000 members. We welcome NHS BME leaders as members and non-BME leaders as supporters. Visit BME Leadership Network for further information and to join.

  • The Health and Care Women Leaders Network is a free network open to all women working across health and care.  

    The network aims to be a strong and influential voice – advocating, championing and supporting all women working across health and care. We focus on women’s health; women’s safety; flexible working; reducing the gender pay gap; empowering women to senior and board-level positions within the health and care sector; and supporting members with their personal and professional development.  
    There are over 2,500 members, from a range of roles, grades and organisations, including NHS trusts, the ambulance sector and primary care.  
    We connect through events, masterclasses, tweet chats and campaigns, and share learning through podcasts, blogs, videos and key reports. Find out more about our upcoming annual conference.   

    We also run a vibrant Health and Care Network of Women’s Networks, open to chairs and leads of women’s networks from a range of organisations.   

    Join us to celebrate our skills and talents, connect with colleagues and challenge gender stereotypes in the workplace. 

Further information
Visit the NHS Employers’ Black History Month page to find out what else is happening across the NHS and access resources that support race equality in the workplace. 

Join the conversation on X (formerly Twitter)
Follow: @NHSE_Diversity@NHSC_BMELeaders@HCWomenLeaders 
Use hashtags:  #BlackHistoryMonth #SalutingOurSisters.