Yvonne Coghill to lead London NHS COVID-19 race equality programme

NHS England’s Director of Workforce Race Equality is to lead a rapid programme of work to support black Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff across London, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Yvonne Coghill will focus on the capital, which has the largest workforce diversity, to support NHS employers to make further positive changes for their staff.

The WRES programme was established to understand the experience of people from BAME backgrounds working in the NHS, and make practical improvements on key issues including recruitment, development and disciplinary processes.

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the NHS nationally has taken further action to support BAME staff, as evidence shows people from these backgrounds are at greater risk of harm.

All local NHS employers are expected to undertake risk-assessments of their BAME staff’s working environments, patterns and responsibilities and make changes to staffing to protect those at risk, and Yvonne will help local services make changes, informed by learning from the WRES programme.

Yvonne will be replaced by Habib Naqvi, deputy director of the WRES programme, until autumn, when a permanent appointment will be made.

Yvonne Coghill, outgoing director of the NHS England Workforce Race Equality Standard programme, said: “The WRES programme has already made important, significant progress in making the NHS a better place to work, regardless of your race or ethnicity, but everyone recognises that we have a long way to go.

“COVID-19 has injected even greater urgency into the work we are doing to support staff from BAME backgrounds, and over the coming months I’ll be working closely

“I’d like to thank my team and everyone across the NHS for their continued work to make the NHS a fairer and more equal employer and I’m proud that WRES has driven change in recent years and will no doubt continue to make a positive impact into the future, working closely with colleagues in NHS London to help develop the strategic approach going forward.”

Habib Naqvi, interim director of the NHS England Workforce Race Equality Standard programme, said: “I’m extremely proud to have the chance to lead the WRES programme, especially at such a vital time for the NHS, our country, and BAME communities in particular.

“The NHS in England has led the world with this programme, and I’m determined that we’ll continue to hold up a mirror to the NHS as a place to work, as all the evidence shows that treating staff fairly and well is not only good for them, but better for the patients they are serving.

“I’d like to thank Yvonne for her inspirational leadership and dedicated commitment to workforce race equality.”

Prerana Issar, chief people officer for the NHS, said: “The NHS has always been driven by the professionalism and dedication of our staff, who have since the foundation of the health service been drawn from a range of backgrounds and from countries across the globe.

“Tackling COVID-19 is one of the gravest challenges our people in the NHS have ever faced, and since the start of the outbreak, nationally and across the country NHS employers have looked to support frontline staff, and it’s clear that the particular impact on people from BAME backgrounds means we must keep a relentless focus on making practical, positive changes.”

Yvonne Coghill began her work on the WRES programme in 2015 and will retire from the NHS in September this year after 43 years of service.