Expo 2019: NHS Confederation BME Leadership Network offers influence, voice and opportunity for BME leaders

Joan Saddler

By Joan Saddler, Director of Partnerships and Equality at the NHS Confederation

During NHS Health & Care Expo 2019, the BME Leadership Network hosted an open reception session for members and supporters. The session was opened by Joan Saddler OBE, director for partnerships and equality at the NHS Confederation, co‐facilitator BME Leadership  Network and co-chair of NHS Equality and Diversity Council (EDC) Chair; and Wayne Farah, BME Leadership Network co-facilitator. Brief comment was given from Wayne about the need for BME leaders who are informed by communities. 

A presentation was then followed from Evelyn Asante-Mensah OBE, chair at Pennine NHS Trust about her journey and the need to engage the workforce and communities in change. She is currently chair of the Arawak Walton Housing Association, which provides homes to people in Stockport and Trafford and is a board governor at Manchester Metropolitan University. 

Joan Saddler then interviewed Prerana Issar, NHS England and Improvement’s Chief People Officer about her leadership journey, key experiences that have impacted her and tips for empowering other women and BME leaders.

The conversation between them inspired delegates with down-to-earth, practical tips about being your true self at work as well as developing horizons. Prerana combines senior public service experience with strong skills from the private sector. She is a passionate and committed advocate for diversity at all levels and all jobs, and applies this lens to people-related decisions, policies and processes.

Dr Robina Shah MBE, UK Health Service Ambassador for UK 999 Cenotaph Campaign, also spoke about her journey so far.


She is a chartered consultant psychologist, director of the Doubleday Centre for Patient Experience at the University of Manchester Medical School and the UK chair of the Patient and Partnership Group at Royal College of General Practitioners. Robina is also a member of the NHS Assembly, created to advise the boards of NHS England and NHS Improvement on delivery of the improvements in health and care it outlines, through a collaborative approach to developing the Long-Term Plan.


The discussion was followed by networking opportunities for attendees.

On the second day, BME Leadership Network worked in partnership with the Health and Care Women Leaders Network – which is delivered by the NHS Confederation and NHS Employers -  to jointly host ‘Diversity in leadership: Key to making the NHS the best place to work?’

The session was opened by Dr Nikita Kanani MBE. We were boosted when we heard the wonderful good news that she had just been confirmed as the Medical Director Primary Care, NHS England.

Dr Kinani and Joan Saddler shared their thoughts on inclusive leadership before Joan prompted delegates to share via Slido one work that came to mind, when thinking about inclusivity.  

Following this, there was a panel of experts - chaired by Dr Henrietta Hughes of the National Guardians office, with NHS Improvement chair Baroness Dido Harding;  Dr Navina Evans, chief executive at East London NHS Foundation Trust; Jagtar Singh OBE, chair at Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust; and Wayne Farah, co‐facilitator of the BME Leadership Network -  who discussed the importance of diversity in leadership in the NHS.

The panel responded to questions from delegates and shared their views on why our leaders, chairs and non-executive directors should better represent the communities they serve and the staff they lead and help to identify and tackle the barriers that exist for the leaders of today and tomorrow. 

Joan Saddler and Wayne Farah also joined the Q&A Panel hosted by Richard Stubbs, chief executive at Yorkshire & Humber Academic Health Science Network (AHSN), as he launched a new report highlighting the business case for increased diversity in innovation in the NHS.

The report ‘Diversity and innovation – a celebration of BAME innovators and our pledges to do more’ shares the stories of innovators from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds and sets out pledges by the AHSN Network to further support the diversity and innovation agenda.

If you missed it, Richard will speak at the next meeting of the BME Leadership Network on 13th November 2019, at 5.30pm at the Royal College of Nursing. More details will follow shortly.

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