Developing aspiring ethnic minority nursing and midwifery leaders

The Midlands Developing Aspirant Ethnic Minority Nursing and Midwifery Leaders Programme is a new, innovative regional pilot scheme designed by ethnic minority nurses and midwives for ethnic minority nurses and midwives. Miriam Coffie and Tom Warner explain how the programme works and its contribution to reducing healthcare inequalities.

Nearly a quarter of nurses and midwives in NHS Midlands are from an ethnic minority background. Despite these numbers, staff continue to face inequity in both access to opportunities for development and progression compared to their white colleagues. Our WRES data highlights that there is a barrier for ethnic minority nurses and midwives at more senior levels, with data clearly showing a marked fall in representation for ethnic minority staff at band 6 and above and over representation at band 5.

The Developing Aspirant Ethnic Minority Nursing and Midwifery Leaders (DAL) programme is a vitally important pilot which spans two of our regional nursing and midwifery race equality priorities – career progression and development. It is a visible ethnic minority leadership offer, and representative workforce at all levels.

In the Midlands we want to create the right environment for our aspirant ethnic minority leaders to flourish, be supported and recognised for the amazing talent they have. Evidence shows that a workforce which is representative of the community it serves has a positive impact on patient care and is aligned to the strategic objectives of integrated care systems to reduce healthcare inequalities.

The programme is holistic, combining leadership development, strategic and operational experience, bespoke senior clinical support and career coaching.

Completed over 12 months, participants have 23 days of study plus four days each month to evidence their impact through a stretch assignment that improves patient care or enhances professional practice.

The programme was created by our regional Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) and Chief Midwifery Officer (CMidO) Ethnic Minority Expert Reference Group, the regional CNO and CMidO BME Strategic Advisory Group representative, the NHS England Regional Nursing team, and the National and Midlands Leadership and Lifelong Learning Academy.

Stakeholders were adamant this could not be “just another leadership programme” and that the programme should include a combination of formal development, exposure to new work-based learning opportunities, safe spaces, and support from a motivated sponsor from their organisation or ICS.

Sponsors pledged how they were going to support aspirant leaders at the start of their leadership journey and committed to providing enhanced learning and networking opportunities. As such the programme is designed with participants and executive sponsors in mind. We committed to finding and commissioning an exceptional regional nurse sponsor to provide pastoral support to participants and sponsors. Additionally, we collaborated with the renowned Associate Professor Stacy Johnson (University of Nottingham) to design a bespoke programme of reciprocal mentoring to facilitate the relationship between participant and sponsor throughout the course. This programme combines formal learning with a holistic programme of activities including clinical and non-clinical masterclasses. Where possible, activities are delivered by local and national ethnic minority leaders so that participants have clear role models.

DAL is a holistic scheme that develops a range of strategic and operational leadership skills.

We expect to see an increased representation of ethnic minority leadership, but this will naturally take time. As such our evaluation conducted by NHS Research and Insights and NHS Elect will be longitudinal (two years). We have already seen:

  • 100% of our aspirants passed the Mary Seacole programme (first six months of DAL)
  • NHS England in the Midlands commissioning a second programme for 33 places (an increase of 50% places from cohort one) commencing September 2022
  • 40% of participants have stepped forward and applied for different roles or secondments as a direct result of the programme
  • The creation of an amazing support network across participants to encourage, support and motivate each other
  • Participants have been celebrated nationally, winning prestigious awards such as the Nursing Times Rising Star Award, Royal College of Midwives Race Matters and local awards such as “Best Boss”.
  • The programme itself won a BAME Health & Care Award 2022 for outstanding corporate achievement
  • Two participants are now published authors inspiring others to write about their experiences.
  • Some of our aspirant leaders are providing support to regional and national projects.

We have been driven to create a programme which offers sustainable change and have shared far and wide. DAL is recognised by national leaders as good practice supporting ethnic minority nursing and midwifery career progression. Ideally our ambition is for the programme to be “nationally adopted” across England. We have shared our work with other regional teams and organisations who are now adopting the work and developing similar programmes.

Applications for cohort two of the pilot programme are now open and we are looking forward to welcoming our 33 aspirant leaders to embark on this journey in October this year.

Watch testimonies from some of our aspirant leaders.

Miriam Coffie

Miriam began her career working for the NHS as a Midwife providing antenatal, labour and postnatal care in both hospital and community settings. She progressed to further specialist community qualification as a Registered Health Visitor, providing support and advice on child and family health and child development.

In her role as a Health Visitor she worked across Luton, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire for many years working with GPs, social workers, children’s centres and a host of other professionals to promote the wellbeing of children under the age of five years and their families. In 2011, Miriam took a role with the local primary care trust to support commissioning of health services in Bedfordshire, primarily working with GPs to ensure services provided were of high quality and demonstrated value for money. Miriam was responsible for the commissioning and reviewing of several healthcare services in Bedfordshire including services from local GPs for people with long term conditions.

In 2017, Miriam moved into a quality assurance role with NHS England as the Head of Quality for the Central Midlands area, leading on a variety of work streams including maternity transformation, enhanced health in care homes and the GP Nursing 10 Point Plan. Miriam is substantively the Head of Nursing for Professional Standards for NHS England (Midlands) and is responsible for a large portfolio including oversight of patient experience and patient engagement activities, the Chief Nursing Officer’s priorities associated with workforce, complaints for services commissioned by NHS England, leadership and support for carers, equalities and health inequalities, and General Practice nursing across the region.

In October 2021, Miriam commenced a secondment to Assistant Director of Nursing and Quality for the locality team and retains several nursing corporate projects such as nursing and midwifery equalities and leadership development.

Here you can read a recent article written by Miriam for Black History Month.

Tom Warner

Tom has just reached ten years’ service in the NHS and recently came into his first specific equality, diversity and inclusion role as Clinical Workforce Equalities Manager for NHS England, Midlands region.

This role works on the development of transformational policy for nursing and midwifery workforce equality. Here Tom has led on the establishment of a Chief Nursing Officer’s and Chief Midwifery Officer’s Ethnic Minority Delivery Group, translating national priorities into Midlands specific actions to improve workforce and patient outcomes.