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Windrush and the NHS at 70

The Director of Workforce Race Equality Standard Implementation announces the new Windrush Awards to celebrate the breadth and depth of diversity we hold dear in the NHS:

It has often been said that the NHS could not function without its black and minority ethnic (BME) staff, and this is undoubtedly true.

As it marks its 70th anniversary, we are determined to celebrate the NHS and alongside it the contribution of its ethnic minority staff.

On 22 June 1948 the Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury, bringing the first wave of immigrants from the Caribbean to support the reconstruction of post war Britain. People were invited by the British Government to come to the ‘mother country’ to live and to work. There was a big recruitment drive all over the Caribbean, highlighting the opportunities that existed in England and many Caribbean people took the once in a lifetime opportunity to come.

Recently there has been controversy about the status of some of the Windrush children, of which I am one. Many of the new arrivals were some of the first people to work in the newly formed health service.  The NHS, and immigrants working in it, are inextricably linked.

Britain is a nation of diversity, with 15% of the population from BME backgrounds and this figure is set to increase over time. The NHS is the biggest employer of people from a BME background in Europe; with one-in-five of the workforce are from a BME background. Some professions have even higher numbers. Over 40 per cent of hospital doctors are from a BME background and 25 per cent of nurses and midwives. In areas like London most organisations have more than 35 per cent of people from BME backgrounds working in them.

Many people have spent a lifetime working in the NHS and, for some, their parents before them. It is, therefore, surprising that when we look at the number of BME people in our population and working in our service there are less than 7 per cent of BME people at the most senior levels. It has to be said that the NHS is not alone in this and that many other organisations exhibit the same pattern.

It also has to be said that the NHS is actually doing something about this inequity. In 2015 the Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) was introduced into the NHS and has helped to shine a spotlight on some of the issues experienced by BME staff in the service. This is why it is so important to celebrate the contribution of these unsung members of staff.

To recognise these contributions over the last 70 years, we have developed the NHS70 Windrush Awards , with 11 categories designed to celebrate the breadth and depth of diversity we hold dear in the NHS.

Awards categories include:

  • Clinical excellence for medics 
  • Clinical excellence for nursing
  • Operational service excellence
  • Clinical excellence for allied health professionals
  • Contribution towards improving health inequalities 
  • Research & policy development 
  • Unsung hero
  • Rising stars innovation
  • BME inspirational leader
  • NHS lifetime achievement award 
  • Top leadership

The unique thing about these awards is that each category has been sponsored mainly by healthcare organisations. The support we have received for this initiative has been amazing. Anyone can be nominated that has worked in the NHS over the last 70 years and or has helped to improve equality in the NHS. You don’t need to be an NHS employee to nominate someone; we are particularly keen for people that worked in the NHS in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s to be nominated.

Everyone is invited to vote on who they believe the winners should be. The awards will be presented to the winners on the evening of Tuesday 12 June at Manchester Central, an excellent venue for the event to take place as it was in the Manchester area 70 years ago the NHS began; healthcare free at the point of need accessible to all, regardless of ability to pay.

I am really looking forward to this event and hope to see you there.

Yvonne Coghill

Yvonne Coghill OBE, JP, MSc, DMS, RGN, RMN, HV, CPT, Dip Exec Coaching.

Yvonne commenced nurse training at Central Middlesex Hospital in 1977, qualified as a general nurse in 1980 and then went on to qualify in mental health nursing and health visiting. In 1986 she secured her first NHS management job and has since held a number of operational and strategic leadership posts.

In 2004, she had the unique opportunity to work at the Department of Health as Private Secretary to the Chief Executive of the NHS, Sir Nigel Crisp. In her three years at the Department, Yvonne held several strategic posts, including Programme Director for the Cleaner Hospitals Programme and External Relations Nursing Officer to the Chief Nursing Officer of England.

Yvonne is currently the Director – WRES Implementation in NHS England, and is a member of the equality and diversity council at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) in the United States where she has helped develop their inclusion strategy, delivered workshops and was co-chair at their national forum in Orlando 2015. She has also been keynote speaker at the National Association of Health Service Executives (NAHSE) annual conference in New Orleans. She continues to work closely with world expert on health and race Professor D. Williams, of Harvard University School of Public Health.

Recently Yvonne has used her knowledge and experience of mental health to act as a commissioner on a report commissioned by the Royal college of Psychiatrists and chaired by Lord Crisp on ‘Adult mental health in patient services’ which fed into the NHS England task force review on mental health services in England.

In 2013 Yvonne was voted by colleagues in the NHS as one of the top 50 most inspirational women, one of the top 50 most inspirational nurse leaders and one of the top 50 BME pioneers, two years in a row. Yvonne was awarded an OBE for services to healthcare in 2010 and was appointed as Director for WRES Implementation in June 2015.

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2 comments

  1. cecily mwaniki says:

    Yvonne, you continue to be a great inspiration to many –some of whom you may never meet or even know.
    Very happy to see/know you work closely with D Williams whom I’ve met in some big conferences including Geneva on two occasions–he is truly and authority in race discrimination and mental health.
    Thank you for being who you are and allowing yourself to be the change.

    • Anonymous says:

      Cecily, thank you for this lovely response to the blog who kno’ve only just read. I am hopeful that the work many of us are doing will have some impact and that things for BME people improve globally. All the very best to you and yours. Yvonne