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Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust has announced the appointment of Avey Bhatia as its next chief nurse, taking over from Dame Eileen Sills.
Dame Eileen is stepping down, having been in the role of chief nurse at Guy’s and St Thomas’ since 2005.
“As one of the first Asian chief nurses of a hospital trust in the UK, I have personal experience of the challenges and barriers some colleagues face”
Ms Bhatia will be joining in the autumn from St Georges’ University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, where she was appointed chief nurse and director of infection prevention and control in 2017.
Since February this year, she has been carrying out the role of chief operating officer, helping to lead the trust’s response to the coronoavirus pandemic.
Ms Bhatia is returning to the organisation, having trained as a critical care nurse at St Thomas’ in the early part of her career.
Since then, she has held a number of senior nursing leadership roles, including chief nurse posts at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust and South London Healthcare NHS Trust.
Speaking on her new appointment, she said: “I am very excited and proud to be joining Guy’s and St Thomas’ at this important and unprecedented time for the NHS.
“Outstanding patient care, quality and diversity underpin both my personal values and those of the trust, and I am also a passionate believer in the importance of professional development, training and education for the whole workforce.
“This is a huge opportunity for me personally and professionally,” she Ms Bhatia.
“As one of the first Asian chief nurses of a hospital trust in the UK, I have personal experience of the challenges and barriers some colleagues face in advancing their careers and I am committed to playing my part in addressing these,” she said.
She added: “I am delighted to be returning to an organisation where I spent a very happy part of my critical care training and which has most recently played such an important role in the pandemic response.”
Ian Abbs, chief executive of the trust, said: “I am delighted to welcome Avey as the new chief nurse at Guy’s and St Thomas’. She was the outstanding candidate in a very strong field.
“Her significant depth and breadth of experience, new perspectives, and proven commitment to patients and staff will make her a valuable addition to our leadership team.
“We very much look forward to her taking up her new role in the autumn,” he said.
“I would also like to pay tribute to Eileen Sills and thank her for her exceptional service and the huge contribution she has made to nursing, both here at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and to the wider NHS.”
Previous research has found black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff, including nurses, are significantly under-represented in senior NHS posts.
A seminal report published in 2014 by Middlesex University research fellow Roger Kline – called The Snowy White Peaks of the NHS – suggested it was open to claims of being “institutionally racist”.
In recent years, there has been a small improvement in BAME representation at the most senior level, according to latest findings from the Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) programme.
In 2019, there were 10 executive directors of nursing from a BME background across the 227 NHS trusts in England – up by two from 2018.
However, BAME nursing staff still remain significantly under-represented at senior levels, when compared to the white colleagues.
In December 2018, NHS leaders in England promised that a push to improve staff diversity at the highest level of the health service would be “turbo charged” under a freshly approved strategy.
It required NHS organisations to set their own target for representation of people from BAME backgrounds across its leadership team and broader workforce.