Tag Archives: positive action in the NHS

Positive Action in the NHS – The LEAP Programme for NHS pay bands 2-7

This week I was invited to speak at a seminar on “Embedding Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in the Workplace” ESRC held at the University of Sheffield on 10 June 2015.

The seminar, focused on the role of EDI practices, the speakers included – Dr Eden King (George Mason University), Professor Derek Avery (Temple University), Harpal Dhatt (Glow at Work ) and Yvonne Coghill (NHS Leadership Academy).


(Above is a group selfie at the end of the seminar with diversity researchers; Yves Guillaume, Derek Avery, Eden King and Jeremy Dawson)

This week I bring to you some of the LEAP (Leadership Empowerment through Achieving your Potential) programme story, which was initially designed for Black and Ethnic Minority (BME) employees and now is also available to other groups in the National Health Service (NHS).

“My vision is to see in my lifetime NHS organisations with a “leadership (that) reflect the population it serves” (Alastair Mclellan). Where passion, talents, skills, expertise, wisdom, humility, compassion are valued and taken seriously, where all people matter and not just the select or favourite few.” (Harpal Dhatt)

From 1998 onwards I have worked in the NHS in different departments; Procurement, Patient Affairs, CEO’s office, Learning & Development, Human Resources, Organisation Development. I have experienced a range of NHS settings; from traditional hospitals, primary care trusts, community providers, to the more unusual prison healthcare. Working with CEO’s, senior managers, middle managers and frontline employees. During that time I observed that the senior leadership were often gained by those who had been in the organisation the longest and those who did  not rock the boat. This resulted in a mismatch between the strengths and skills required for the role and the person in the role. Competence and hard-work were not necessarily rewarded, leading to a culture of maintaining the status quo.

In my role as a Learning & Development co-ordinator I was tasked with collecting data on ethnicity of patients and staff. While undertaking this exercise, I noticed a discrepancy between pay band and race. At band 5, BME employees were over represented and in band 7 and upwards, they were under-represented. Although nearly 20% of the 1.4 million people who work in the NHS are from Black and ethnic minority (BME) backgrounds. At a NHS conference in 2008 it was stated that one of the reasons raised for this was institutional racism in the NHS. I was initially shocked by this, as I thought this was just in the police force following the Macpherson report. It seems, even today, that even though the NHS has talked about having a diverse work force reflecting its population not a lot has changed, why is it that progress is slow?

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” (Albert Einstein)

Research on unconscious bias shows that the first thing we notice when we meet another person is their race. We all have biases, we are all imperfect and we can hide behind them instead of speaking honestly about them. We might pretend there are no differences and stay stuck in the same place of denial. This work has led to a movement of encouraging more open discussions, acknowledging we all have biases and this is ok, if we are aware of them we can find ways to manage them. In my opinion, we are now in a place of unconscious and conscious biases. What happens  when we are conscious of them but ok with them and choose not to do anything about it, ignore it, continuing with business as usual?  We need to rethink the systems and the ways things happen, creating systems that reduce bias.  Also being open about how we are going to manage our bias.

The  NHS is an expert in collecting data, facts, producing schemes, framework and using legislation on race. This approach is logical, in the head, but is  not really working or changing things. We need to connect with our hearts and really feel the human connection and compassion that we all have naturally inside us. This is not just something one race has more of than another. Although with pain and suffering we are more likely to explore our compassionate side, and maybe this has been developed more in some races that have experienced more suffering?

The work of Professor Michael West, Jeremy Dawson and colleagues shows the “link between the treatment of BME staff and the quality of patient care, and the importance of boards representing the diverse communities they serve.” Again we know the importance of what the data that has been collected shows us. Yet in my opinion we keep collecting more and more data, telling us the same information. Why are we not exploring innovative ways to make a difference, so that in another 10 years we can say there has been  change.

During my work I noticed that BME leadership development was positioned to people in positions from band 7 and upwards. This surprised me when the data was showing that most BME’s are over-represented at band 5. There was a contradiction in what was available in terms of development for the majority of BME staff to progress. I am not saying that all BME staff need to go on a leadership programme.  Sometimes the BME staff are ready and even over qualified for the role and fail to be noticed and promoted, here the systems and culture need to be explored and changed.   There are also a group of  BME people who have had some bad experiences and not been given good feedback or been stretched to develop, their confidence has been knocked back. In some cases maybe they have come from a culture of lower self-promotion and have been told that education and hard work are the answer.  This is one reason why BME’s are sometimes over qualified.  They think the formal way is the way to success and do not understand the informal and political astuteness needed to be successful.

As a consequence of my experience and the data I decided to look for ways to meet this unmet need in the NHS. I decided to consider how to represent the needs of the lower banded NHS employees. This includes all races, although BME’s are over-represented here. I did not see anyone championing this group of employees and it is important in terms of long-term succession planning and the future of the NHS that junior staff are supported to develop and grow from within.

This led me to create a leadership empowerment programme called LEAP in 2008 . This  programme is a 6 day in-house programme delivered over 2 months, open to employees on bands 2-7, the selection criteria is focused on motivation and potential to want to achieve more and progress in your  career. The intention of the programme is to empower and motivate people to be in charge of their own futures. leap .001

These programmes have been run in the following NHS organisations; Hammersmith & Fulham PCT twice, Central London Community Healthcare 6 times and Imperial College Healthcare twice.  In some cases during the selection  process, I have come across a few band 3’s who have scored the highest in the process and delivered some of the best presentations at the end of the programme. Nurturing  this talent to grow and develop helps  to demonstrate that staff are seen as human beings that are valued. The LEAP programme has been delivered 10 times and enabled many BME employees to progress to higher positions. Stories include; moving from band 3 to 6 after 3 months of completing the programme. Some participants have progressed to a higher band position after being on the same band for 10 years. The programme creates a movement where people take responsibility for their career and learn skills to empower themselves and others for greater things.

Glow at Work working with Dr Madeleine Wyatt at the University of Kent Business School have developed a 360 questionnaire to measure the effectiveness and outcomes of the programme. Evidence from this process shows that the programme enhances leadership styles, interpersonal skills, networking ability and proactive behaviour amongst participants.  The programme has a proven track record of delivering high quality outcomes for lower banded NHS employees.

I would welcome the opportunity to be able to hear your thoughts on what I have shared with you so I can realise my dream of spreading this program through the NHS, empowering staff to take charge of their destiny. I wish to bring the evidence base of psychology and practical things that work available to all, to take action to improve themselves and all the people around them.  If you can help me achieve my vision please get in touch and share your ideas with me.  leap2.001

To close I want to share what can happen when you decide to make a change and take on a leadership position.  When you raise your head above the parapet, people will not always like you, they will say no, be difficult and not very nice, it takes courage and determination to keep going.  Luckily persistence is one of my strengths that served me well here.  Also finding your tribe, people that understand what you are doing and can help you.  Even if it is only 1 or 2 people in an organisation that can give you hope to create and do something.  I found this in Grace Vanterpool, Consultant Nurse in Diabetes and previously Nurse of the Year, MBE and Yohannes Fassil, Director at Health Rights Ltd.

“Nothing we do, we do alone, there is always someone else involved from the day we are born.” This is a good way of keeping us all grounded and humble.

A link for you to watch LEAP participant video’s  to see what they think of the programme.

Happy weekend to you and thank you for reading 😉



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