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I’m wondering if anyone is feeling the same as I am about the turbulence caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the global Black Lives Matter movement and the advent of worldwide dialogue about racism and discrimination.
Across the UK, there is a sense of impatience and frustration among some of its citizens. People are clearly saying: “Change must come, and things must be different.”
What we are witnessing is the eruption of a simmering boil made up of several causes with differing exit points. This analogy makes it easier to put into context a very difficult and sensitive period affecting all of our lives, which now cannot be ignored. Especially as the very people affected will be our colleagues, friends, neighbours, service users and stakeholders – no one is exempt.
The protesters could be made up of our NHS colleagues and/or service users as well as stakeholders. When people return to work or access services, they will not leave their new-found awareness, impatience and expectations at the entrance of NHS organisations, they may bring their views and feelings to their appointments, jobs, meetings and coffee rooms.
They may also begin to judge, positively or negatively, their employee experience or quality of service provision in light of current events and the prevailing narrative. I cannot help but feel clear messages are being sent; “Change is necessary – and it must happen quickly”. The world wants more.
Irrespective of what you are feeling and it’s OK to have mixed feelings, these events are clear illustrations that the lack of equality, diversity, inclusion, civility and fairness, impact everyday activities and everyone, despite race, religion, gender and other protected characteristics. But I guess I have always known that as a nurse and leader from a BAME background and unfortunately my own unfavourable experiences are not too dissimilar to the content of the loud voices and chants we hear reverberating across the globe.
“Organisations must embrace the changing landscape”
I see an opportunity for NHS workers of any grade to take permission and step forward courageously, to be heard and become a dynamic part of the evolving NHS. It is imperative every role and grade across the NHS acts with impunity and becomes pro-active in all things pertinent to equality, diversity and inclusion for colleagues, patients and in the widest strategic context. The NHS must not be an organisation which acts last, it must begin its transformation now.
Organisations must embrace the changing landscape while hearing, taking note and acting upon the lived experiences of staff, patients and stakeholders. What has been seen cannot be unseen. Whether you choose to be a truth teller, an advocate, an ally, anti-racist or an observer, there is a role for all. The NHS as we have known it, has changed forever.
To begin this transformation, the NHS must redesign the architecture of how it educates its workforce as well as dismantle and examine the stereotypical viewpoints of caregivers, leaders and its hierarchical structures, systems and processes. Covid-19 showed dispassionately socially constructed boundaries have little value.
Perhaps now is the time to bring forth a model of leadership that promotes sustainable change, improves the quality of personal leadership, transforms tired and existing paradigms and ensures inclusion and civility for all.
Without exception, the NHS and its ways of working will definitely need to become more inclusive, so let’s start talking.
Nesta Williams is equality, engagement and organisational development consultant