Somerset FT recognised for words of reassurance to BAME colleagues

Somerset NHS Foundation Trust has made the final of the prestigious Nursing Times awards in the category of ‘Best Diversity and Inclusion Practice’.

It follows a letter sent to black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) colleagues by our chief executive Peter Lewis with a commitment to take a series of practical steps to protect our BAME colleagues and families during the pandemic.

The news is timely as October is Black History Month – a national celebration to promote and celebrate Black contributions to British society, and to develop an understanding of Black history in general.

During the month some of our BAME colleagues will talk about their experiences of working in the NHS and what it’s like to live in Somerset. Keep an eye out for their stories on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

We have so many fantastic, hardworking and skilled BAME colleagues across the trust and this month gives us the opportunity to celebrate the important role they play in providing excellent services for our patients.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began to affect us back in early summer we knew all colleagues would naturally be worried, but there were particular concerns for our BAME colleagues following the national coverage about the disproportionate impact of the virus on BAME communities.

We took a number of steps to support our BAME colleagues, such as asking all managers to undertake risk assessments of BAME colleagues in the same way we would for those in vulnerable and at risk groups.

While we didn’t at that point have any national guidance we felt that this was the right approach to take. Feedback from our BAME colleagues has been positive about this approach.

We heard that many BAME colleagues were understandably worried about their own and their families’ health during this time so we put in place a comprehensive wellbeing programme, including specific BAME drop-in sessions.

Sun Sander-Jackson, our BAME network lead, said: “I am very proud to work for an organisation that has made such an important commitment of practical support for our BAME colleagues during the pandemic.

“My BAME colleagues have told me that they were really worried about their own and family wellbeing and this pledge by our trust really has gone a long way to both give them a voice and make them feel safer at work during the pandemic.

“I’ve also had really good feedback about the depth of support made available by the trust to help all colleagues with their wellbeing.”