Tanya Brown-Griffith: View from the BAME Disparity Response Programme

Tanya Brown-Griffith is the Programme Director for the Sussex BAME Disparity Response Programme

My first few weeks as Programme Director for the Sussex Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Disparity Response Programme has certainly given a new meaning to the phrase “hitting the ground running”.  I inducted a new Team, started drafting a plan to refresh the overall programme plan and then was propelled into coordinating the first SUSSEX-wide Black History Month events aligned to key deliverables within the BAME programme. Challenging maybe, but also very exciting.

As I mentioned earlier I had to induct a new team and it is my pleasure to introduce this amazing group of people who are also passionate about Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and as committed to improving health and social care access and outcomes across our Sussex population as I am.  As a team we will continue to remind people that the COVID-19 Pandemic has unfortunately highlighted this cruel and disproportionate impact, particularly for our BAME communities,and that we have a long way to go to achieve health and social equality and racial justice. The team is:

  • Claire Scott – Project Manager: Population
  • Mathew Kuruvilla – Project Manager: Workforce
  • Anabel Carrington – Project Manager: Communications & Engagement

After our meeting with the Executive Co-Leads for the Programme (Adam Doyle and Lola Banjoko) the team and I were inspired and empowered by their passion and enthusiasm for reducing health and racial inequalities.  They made us all feel valued and welcomed! They also talked about the way the programme had become a national exemplar and is only one of a few programmes in the UK currently leading the way, learning, developing and flexing.  We have recently had the BAME Disparity /Turning the Tide roundtable discussion with Programme Directors across the system which will see us knit together strategy, governance and next steps.

To add to that I have also been part of the NHS England and Improvement (NHSEI) Leadership and Lifelong learning review of Inclusive Leadership in the NHS.  Over fifty delegates from all backgrounds across the country participated (approximately 25% from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups) and the overall findings were surprising and disappointing including a few shared below:

  • Many staff and volunteers continue to find it difficult or impossible to challenge decisions made by senior leaders in their area, when they often have insights which could improve a service, build a more sustainable working culture or save the NHS money.
  • Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) focused training tends to focus on knowledge development (about particular groups of people) and is experienced by many as an addition to fundamental leadership development (a ‘nice to have’) rather than a core element of effective leadership
  • Many individuals from under-represented groups face a number of circular challenges, making it significantly more difficult for them to progress into leadership roles, in which they would have more strategic power to influence change. In particular, intersecting biases, about who is generally trusted as a leader, who sees themselves as a leader and how we tend to recruit in our own image, means that in spite of leadership interventions aimed at particular groups, senior leadership remains stubbornly monolithic. One delegate reported that she been told that ‘inclusivity dumbs down the talent pool’ and another said ‘you can feel it in your skin when people don’t want you to go higher.’

One recommendation that stayed with me was that the NHS should “Stop seeking more evidence from under-represented groups as an add-on to strategy/policy and service development but instead start centering and valuing those insights and experiences within all leadership interventions to fundamentally link increased diversity at all levels and in all roles with greater effectiveness in the NHS.”