North West Region: Engaging on inclusivity

Anthony Nichols

As part of a broader EDI work programme around protected characteristics and intersectionality, North West Region created 12 half-hour webinars exploring a range of LGBTQ+ themes. Co-curated with LGBTQ+ staff networks, each webinar featured speakers and subject matter experts sharing their personal experiences.  Further webinars on other inclusivity themes are also underway. The series is available on the NHS England and NHS Improvement intranet as a shared resource for all staff and regions.

Anthony Nichols joined as Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in November 2020 when most of northwest England was in COVID lockdown. Unable to plan in-person events, he and People Directorate colleague Ivo Georgakiev hit on the idea of using ‘bitesize’ webinars to explore EDI issues in a supportive, interactive way.

Ivo Georgakievivo

The first 12 webinars were created to celebrate LGBT+ History month in February. “It was an ambitious goal and timelines were extremely tight,” admits Anthony. “We wanted to use Teams Live to facilitate chat and question and answer sessions, which was a steep learning curve. We also needed to review content carefully before publishing as some presenters had experienced online abuse in the past.”

Anthony and Ivo worked closely with system-wide LGBTQ+ staff networks to agree the programme and identify presenters and subject matter experts. Local communications colleagues helped create and promote the events. The topics included People Plan commitments, the People Promise, COVID-19 impact, and identifying and developing LGBTQ+ talent.

The guiding principle is to ground every webinar in the lived experience of presenters and participants. “People tend to think about diversity as being visual,” Anthony comments, “but many forms of diversity are invisible. We also want to explore intersectionality, where people experience multiple forms of discrimination. This is not a one size fits all approach.” Ivo agrees: “Listening to people’s stories and what they have faced so far in life is incredibly powerful. It shows me how much more we need to do to confront inequalities.”

Sensitivities around staff identifying themselves in a public forum make it difficult to put a figure on the number of participants – Anthony and Ivo estimate that some 15 to 30 people attended each live event. All webinars have been recorded to be posted on the North West system EDI learning hub, where they can be accessed by staff and managers nationally. Feedback so far has been positive. Of 17 participants who responded to an online evaluation, six felt it had increased their knowledge and confidence and nine said they would like to be an LGBTQ+ ally or were one already.

The LGBTQ+ work is just one strand of a broader programme around inclusivity and intersectionality. Webinars have been produced for International Women’s Day, Racism Elimination Day and on menopause, with more in the pipeline for Autism Awareness month and on other topics. “We will repeat the bitesize format for all protected characteristics to help us push forward difficult conversations and give voice to seldom-heard groups,” says Anthony. “We hope they will also be a useful resource for other regions. That People Plan golden thread of inclusiveness remains really important across the NHS.”

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