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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.
- NHS70 Windrush awards – nominations close on Friday 27 April.
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.
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