London Assembly member Shaun Bailey joins Barking and Dagenham NHS trust’s board as part of innovative diversity scheme
- Credit: Archant
The NHS trust responsible for Barking and Dagenham’s hospitals is taking part in a ground-breaking scheme hoping to encourage more black and ethnic minority candidates to apply for executive level jobs.
Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust (BHRUT) is part of NHS Improvement’s Next Director initiative, which is hoping to increase diversity at executive level across the entire NHS.
A successful pilot has already been carried out in London, and now the programme is being rolled out across the Midlands and the east of England to encourage under-represented groups to get more involved with the future of the NHS.
According to the NHS’s own diversity statistics, 85pc of the organisation’s Band 8 & 9 staff – the highest earners – are white.
Shaun Bailey, an Afro-Caribbean London Assembly member, is one of the scheme’s current trainees, and has been working with the trust’s board for the last eight months.
But the father-of-two is very clear that Next Director is more than just the NHS ticking its diversity boxes.
He told the Recorder: “I think the most important thing is that this isn’t the NHS going, ‘oh we need a black person in there for it to look good’ – I don’t want to be part of anyone’s quota.
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“What this scheme is about is giving people with the right skill sets who haven’t always been given the right opportunities a chance to get that experience and give something back that the NHS as a whole can benefit from.
“Everyone I’ve met in the scheme has skills the NHS is actively seeking out – but now they’re realising they can look in other places they might not have before.”
A Harold Hill resident who became involved in politics after founding a charity helping Afro-Caribbean communities in inner London, Shaun believes one of the NHS’s greatest strengths is that “it doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, black or white, gay or straight, it is there for you”.
For the eight months he had been on the scheme, the father-of-two – who was once a special advisor to former prime minister David Cameron – has attended board meetings, as well as meeting senior directors at many of the departments at Queen’s and King George Hospitals.
So was he nervous on his first day arriving at the trust?
“I’d love to say that the answer was no, that I wasn’t intimidated going into that first meeting, but I definitely was,” he said.
“It’s a lot of pressure and the stakes are so high, but what struck me quite quickly was how many highly skilled and intelligent people there are in the room at these board meetings.
“There are a lot of commercially successful people in the room alongside the health directors and everyone is contributing something.
“I’ve sat in meetings in Downing Street where we’ve discussed budgets of £50-60billion and these conversations feel just as weighty because the decisions are more immediate.
“What gives you a real sense of how high the stakes are is that at every board meeting I’ve been to so far we’ve had actual patients come in and tell their stories, so the very first thing you’re reminded of is how important the work that goes on at the trust is.”
And the 46-year-old is quick to praise the trust’s leadership - singling out chairman Joe Fielder for particular praise.
He said: “One of the things that has most surprised me about all of this is how approachable and down to earth Joe is.
“I was expecting him to be a bit high and mighty or snooty, but he’s actually a really friendly person - the kind of guy you can imagine having a chat with down the pub.”
And Mr Fielder was quick to throw his full support behind the Next Director scheme.
He said: “I’m delighted that Shaun is involved with the trust through this programme.
“I’m keen that we provide the opportunity for new talent to come through, so that we have diversity of background, experience, and thought around our board table.
“It’s really important that boards across the NHS are more reflective of the communities they serve, so this is something to be welcomed and encouraged.”