October is Black History Month and Acosia Nyanin, chief nurse at Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, writes in celebration of diversity and the strength it brings to the NHS.
Throughout October we celebrate Black History Month across the trust, across the NHS, across the country and around the world.
For me and for colleagues across Sussex Partnership, the month represents an opportunity to celebrate the diversity of our workforce, the benefits that diversity brings (in terms of patient safety and people’s experience of care and outcomes) and how our commitment to diversity, which supports our values and makes us stronger as an organisation.
For people suffering mental health difficulties, being cared for by people with shared experience can make a huge difference. Whether it’s being able to share cultural references or just physically recognising yourself in the person in front of you, that familiarity can help give patients and service users the confidence to open up, feel more supported and recover more quickly.
Our local population is diverse, representing myriad countries, cultures, religions and backgrounds. To be able to continue to provide the highest quality care, our workforce must represent this diversity.
Diversity is an issue particularly close to my heart. I participated in the NHS Leadership Academy’s Ready Now programme for senior BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) leaders. The programme supported me to work within the system, to transform towards greater levels of equality and inclusion. It was an innovative, inspirational positive action programme from the NHS Leadership and has helped me contribute to a more inclusive leadership culture that better represents the demographic of our country and showcases the depth and breadth of BAME talent across the NHS.
Having a range of ideas, experiences and skills within our workforce boosts innovation and creativity and has a positive effect on the way we provide care. It makes us better placed to understand the needs of our patients and engage with a wide range of people within our local community.
The Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks in 1948 filled with people from the Caribbean who had heard the call for help with Britain’s post war recovery and wanted to be a part of it. Since then, black and minority ethnic people have been at the heart of the NHS. Going forward, we must work harder to ensure our wider workforce, but particularly our leadership, represents the people we serve. The benefits of diversity are well documented, particularly in relation to diversity of thought and avoiding group think. We need to maintain our commitment to ensure we realise them.
Writing this blog makes me think of one of my favourite Maya Angelo quotes: “In diversity there is beauty and there is strength”. Real, authentic leadership is about recognising and valuing our differences.
Acosia Nyanin is chief nurse at the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. Follow her on Twitter @AcosiaNyanin