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Leading BME nurses appointed to spearhead new equality efforts

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A team of experienced nurses has been appointed to spearhead regional efforts to boost equality, diversity and inclusion in nursing across England.

As regional leads for the chief nursing officer for England’s black and minority ethnic strategic advisory group, the nurses will play a key role in taking forward the work of the newly re-structured body.

“All our regional leads are all nurses but from different branches and backgrounds”

Laura Serrant

The revamp represents an attempt to make the group, chaired by nursing professor Laura Serrant from Sheffield Hallam University, more representative of the country as a whole and not just the capital.

The four new members include Vinice Thomas, director of nursing for specialised commissioning for NHS England’s London region, who has been appointed lead for the capital, and Michelle Bateman, an associate director of nursing at Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, who will be regional lead for the Midlands and East.

Meanwhile, Ethel Changa, a cognitive behavioural therapist and team manager at Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, will be the regional lead for the South and Michelle Cox, continuing healthcare manager for NHS England in the North will be the lead in her region.

All were appointed after a competitive recruitment process, with each of the interview panels including the NHS England chief nurse for the region in question and at least one other chief nurse from the area.

“This will help us think about how we move on, how we develop, where we need to put more effort in”

Laura Serrant

Each of the appointees has been allocated a mentor from a different region who was previously an experienced member of the group in its old format.

Professor Serrant told Nursing Times that a key aim of the group’s restructure was to have a much stronger regional presence and move away from being a purely London-based group.

The group will continue to meet every other month, but meetings will rotate around the four regions, with the first under the new structure to take place on 22 March in the Midlands and East.

Meetings will also have a new structure with a two-hour session in the morning to deal with core business, such as responding to national policy and reports, and a new afternoon session to be led by the regional leads, which may be open to nurses and others to attend.

“In the afternoon there will be a programme of activities, which will be driven by the region where the meeting is taken place and that will be co-ordinated by the regional lead with the regional chief nurse,” said Professor Serrant.

“I want to build on the legacy we have – so we retain the best parts of being a critical friend”

Laura Serrant

She said these events would provide an opportunity to get feedback on local equality and diversity programmes or support, with awareness raising and activity around a particular issue.

“Or it could be that, within that region, there is a specific trust or particular area of practice where they are trying to deal with an issue and might want to have a meeting just to have some critical input from the group around that,” she said. “It might be some of the Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) data but it could be to do with anything.

“Depending on what it is, that afternoon programme will be open to not only a wider group members – not just the executive committee – but also the public or the general nursing profession,” she said.

She added: “The idea of that is that we continue to have the formal governance, response to and interaction with national policy and reports across the piece, but also that we try and have some local and impact in terms of helping the agenda forward.”

In addition, Professor Serrant said regional leads would do ongoing work with chief nurses, providers and commissioners in their area to develop networks and work around equality, diversity and inclusion in settings where NHS services were delivered, commissioned and accessed.

This regional work would also provide an opportunity to identify and share examples of good practice.

She said she was keen for many more frontline nurses to get involved and urged readers of Nursing Times to get in touch with their new regional lead to find out more.

Professor Serrant revealed the group would be commissioning an independent evaluation to look at the impact of its new way of working in the first year.

“This will help us think about how we move on, how we develop, where we need to put more effort in,” she said.

The group will produce an annual report setting out its overarching activities as well as summarising work in each region, with the first one under the new set-up due out in April 2019.

Professor Serrant said the group would be looking at issues around staff and patient satisfaction surveys and WRES but stressed their remit went beyond the NHS.

Laura Serrant

Laura Serrant

Laura Serrant

“Our role as strategic advisory group is to Jane Cummings in her role as CNO for England – not just the NHS – so our work isn’t simply about WRES and NHS metrics,” she said.

“That is reflected in the fact all our regional leads are all nurses but from different branches and backgrounds, and the networks of people they will engage with are not only NHS networks but professional bodies, local voluntary services, universities and others,” she said.

Professor Serrant highlighted that she hoped the new structure would allow the group to have a wider positive impact.

“I want to build on the legacy we have – so we retain the best parts of being a critical friend around issues to do with equality, diversity and inclusion to the CNO and other nursing and midwifery leaders and retain the ability to support and develop BME staff and patient services,” she said.

“But at the same time have a much more measurable impact regionally across the different regions rather than trying to reach out from one central point,” she said. “If at the end of the year the evaluation demonstrates we can show impact and growth of the network across the regions, then I will be happy.”

Chief Nursing Officer’s Black and Minority Ethnic Strategic Advisory Group: Regional Leads

RegionName of LeadJob Title and Employing Organisation 


Michelle Cox

Continuing Health Care Manager (Assurance) – NHS England – North Region. (Secondment)

Midlands & East

Michelle Bateman

Deputy: Carol Cooper

Associate Director of Nursing, Local Partnerships, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Equality, Diversity & Human Rights Manager, Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Trust, Trust Headquarters


Vinice Thomas

Director of Nursing, Specialised Commissioning (London Region), NHS England


Ethel Changa

Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, Bracknell Team Manager, Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

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