Transformational Allyship in Action – A Vital Partnership between the Jabali Network and Hunter Healthcare

Hunter Healthcare is committed to equality, diversity and inclusion across the healthcare sector. As part of that commitment, we are working with the Jabali Men’s Network to identify and promote opportunities for senior male healthcare professionals in the NHS. This is transformational allyship in action.

The Jabali Network is a network of senior male nurses from African, Asian and Caribbean backgrounds. The network supports each other to develop and to inspire future generations.


Allyship stands on four pillars: listening, learning, speaking up, and taking action. Allies listen, empathise, educate themselves, speak against discrimination, and actively uplift ethnic minorities. By engaging in allyship, we create a more equitable workplace, where everyone can succeed. Let’s stand together, fostering a culture of allyship that empowers all individuals… that’s the magic!

Senior healthcare staff from the ‘global majority’ are underrepresented in senior leadership positions within the NHS. The percentage of individuals from ethnic backgrounds in very senior managerial roles has been significantly lower than their representation in the overall workforce. This is why we value the support from committed allies to challenge this paradigm because ultimately this affects all.


Jabali members are high achievers with a drive to succeed. We do this with meticulous intent and dedication to our profession and organisation. Doing things well is in Jabali’s DNA. We take accountability for seeing our work through and delivering on our commitments.


The Jabali brotherhood embodies deep mutual respect and support, creating a strong, enduring bond that goes beyond friendship. It unites us in our shared experiences and challenges, fostering solidarity and collective well-being.

This brotherhood enriches our community, encouraging us to lead with compassion and empower each other. It stands as a testament to unity, proving that together, we are more resilient. Chosen with purpose, our brotherhood is a journey of cooperation and love, building a legacy of hope for the future. Jabali’s brotherhood transforms us, ensuring everyone is valued and empowered to thrive.


With a collective voice, Jabali Men’s Network actively advocates for the interests and needs of its members within the healthcare sector. This includes addressing issues of inequality, promoting diversity in leadership roles, and working towards systemic change in healthcare institutions, particularly in areas where members of the global majority are underrepresented.


We are obsessed with uplifting each other whilst inspiring the future generations. We focus on retaining talent. Diverse leadership teams are shown to be more innovative and effective in problem-solving, ultimately leading to improved patient outcomes.

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Transformational Allyship in Action – Hunter Healthcare – Jabali Men’s Network

Women in Tech – A Conversation with Joanna Smith (Interim Chief Digital Officer – Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust)

As the Teams call begins, Jo’s unmistakably cheerful face lights up the screen, her hair displaying a vibrant array of pinks freshly dyed in three distinct shades. Melina, my colleague, joins in from our New York office, excitedly talking about her upcoming sunny trip in Miami. We catch up on recent holidays and life updates, before proceeding into the call.

Jo has been a familiar face to Hunter’s network for years. I was actually lucky enough to build on our relationship after securing her a role as an Interim CIO Consultant at University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust back in the summer of 2023. Naturally, I knew I was always going to tell Jo about launching my own little series of write ups aimed at empowering the next generation of Digital Tech, and I was thrilled by her response. Jo was delighted to share her experiences and to provide what I knew would be an insightful and inspiring perspective on her journey.

We speak about her notable career and journey into the digital health industry, exploring her early days as a programmer in a pharmaceutical company (Roche Products Limited) up through the ranks of project management and numerous interim CIO positions, now landing her current role as Interim Chief Digital Officer at Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, a testament to her dedication in the field.

What was the pivotal moment for Jo when transitioning into leadership roles?

It was her first CIO position in the NHS – Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust (RBHT).

“Roche gave me an amazing career and exposure to what good looks like both in people and processes as well as technology, which I was able to bring into the NHS. RBHT was very clear about their ambitions and wanted to be quite brave, so they chose to have a CIO that had not worked in the NHS as they wanted best practice and new ways of working that outside experience could bring.”

Like many aspects in life, Jo admitted that, at the time, she didn’t realise how ”easy” RBHT made it for her, in terms of enabling her to drive the changes needed. When she started in the role, it was a time when funding was not as constrained and she was given the authority and autonomy to do what was necessary. The combination of all of these factors gave her a strong sense of fulfilment and enjoyment in her work.

“It was easily the best job I’ve ever had and I am very grateful to both Roche and RBHT for giving me that experience and confidence.”

As our conversation unfolded, Melina inquired, “was technology always your primary focus?”

Jo chuckled as she reflected upon her unconventional path, admitting that she left school at 16, driven by the arrogance of typical youth. It was clear that she was eager to enter the workforce and earn money, so much so that she bypassed the traditional route of university, “much to my mother’s horror!”– initially having roles in Banking, HR and Sales Marketing. She found herself changing positions every three years, mainly as the novelty had worn off.

It was during this journey that she stumbled upon digital and IT. She was encouraged by others to talk to the IT Director at Roche, and undertook aptitude tests which lead to her journey into the world of technology.

“It was then I knew that this was the world for me. It was amazing. I am passionate about digital – it’s so broad and deep in terms of the roles available – from being a real techy and working at the computer to delivery projects and programmes and talking to people about their requirements as well as working with stakeholders on digital strategy. To me, I don’t know why everyone doesn’t want to work in digital!”

Melina emphasised that within healthcare, technology is something that will never really go away – it’s always evolving.

Jo wholeheartedly agreed, highlighting the nature of digital integration across all sectors. “Absolutely, the world runs on digital, and continues to do so. With health, we all relate to it, we’ve experienced it first hand through ourselves and our family and friends and we can make a real difference. There really isn’t a better cause.”

Delving deeper into Jo’s journey, I asked about the particular challenges she’s encountered as a woman.

She was candid and honest with me, “I went into the NHS in my forties, so I’d already developed a fair degree of confidence. I would argue that the NHS is one of the most inclusive and diverse environments, public sector bodies are really tasked to be so. I haven’t faced any issues personally – that I’ve noticed. Actually I’ve been impressed by the number of women in leadership roles.”

We also explored the everyday challenges that are encountered like the bureaucracy and financial aspects of working within the NHS. The NHS operates under a complex system of processes that are all in place to safeguard themselves against risks which can make acquiring resources and managing finances particularly challenging “you just have to accept that procurement and HR may take longer than in a commercial organisation, but processes differ in each Trust”.

We asked if there was a particularly impactful project or achievement that she was proud of. In short, Jo expressed it was the transformation of digital at RBHT. She had heard about the challenges in the public sector but was determined to be a part of transforming their digital and IT.

“I had the autonomy to define a strategy and describe a roadmap. I did that personally, I didn’t pay people to do it for me. I got it approved and had 3rd party validation that it was fit for purpose.” She achieved one of the highest levels of funding through NHSE and Safer Hospitals Safer Wards scheme, which was, in part down to how she managed the process and the support from the execs. They restructured the team, replaced networks and systems, they changed everything. The transformation of digital was what she was proud of. She loved the job, but it came to a natural end after five years and she was appointed as the CIO for Sidra in Qatar.

I remembered Jo’s involvement with numerous organisations worldwide – from the Japanese and Arabs to the Americans. I couldn’t help but pick her brains on how she navigated around different cultures when approaching a new role.

As she explained herself, I came to learn how and what makes Jo tick, “I love understanding what makes people behave and act. I like to try and work out how to get the best of that rather than clash with it. I love culture, I love style. The pharmaceutical organisations, and also Sidra invested in cultural and social awareness programmes, along with an understanding of social styles. In Japan, the US and the Middle East, it was important to have that sort of training because the workforce was widely diverse. I’m very lucky that in my career, I’ve had a lot of development to help me understand more about me, how I operate and how to work with others and try to and adapt.”

So, how does Jo maintain a work life balance in such demanding programmes?

“Very badly,” she jokes. One of the reasons she came back from the Middle East was to work with a more portfolio type approach. It gives her a degree of flexibility. “I will make sure to deliver, I’ll still do emails and admin at weird times of the day and night, but I sometimes find it easier to switch off as an interim – as long as I know I can deliver”

We debate around the perks of interim contracts and the blend of commitment and flexibility. You are fully committed to an organisation for the duration of your time there, and you take pride in the achievements you deliver. However, unlike permanent roles, there is more freedom to pursue your own career ambitions as you’re not necessarily tied to the organisation in the long term. Arguably, there is less pressure to develop deep personal connections or feel the need to advance your career specifically within that organisation. You can focus on specific responsibilities without the added weight of pleasing social networks and trying to be everyone’s best friend so you’re able to direct your energy towards achieving key results than navigate around complex interpersonal dynamics.

“What’s your biggest tip?”

“My biggest tip? Again, this is quite hard to answer as everyone is different and the roles are so diverse. I think, really recognising and understanding how to play to your strengths. What do you enjoy the most?” She expresses that digital will always have a role that maps to your strengths, so it is important to look for it. It’s key to recognise that the breadth of digital is more than just buying technology, hardware or software, it presents opportunities for stakeholder management or business relationship management. In short, the breadth of digital extends beyond those technical aspects, so you have to encompass your skills and strategies for your own success. “These are different skills and strategies that are all really important. You need to understand your organisation’s purpose, it’s goals and objectives. Making sure that you rely on digital to help the organisation deliver those things. To me, that is the most important and exciting part of the job.”

“I guess it’s not really a tip, but a reminder to focus on what you’re good at. Don’t do it because it pays you a lot of money. If you do something and you enjoy it, you will be successful. If you’re trying to make yourself do something because you think it’s a route to earning money and a good career – you won’t, necessarily.”

Jo enthusiastically gives us more words of advice, recounting her early experiences as a Programmer. She vividly recalls the excitement of understanding a business problem and being trusted with designing the solution to it herself. “I’d be sitting up in bed at midnight with my pencil and paper to figure it all out”, she recollects with a chuckle. “I was one of those ‘sad’ kids that went home and did maths homework for fun. I like solving problems!” her laughter rings out, an indication to the joy she found in her work, even from the earliest days of her career.

Throughout our conversation, Melina and I have explored Jo’s admirable qualities, as well as her relentless drive. With a shared sense of anticipation, we were keen to discover if Jo had any particular people she looked up to. Who were her aspirations in life?

And of course the answer, which I can say is a recurring theme throughout all my discussions so far, is the invaluable network of people you trust and can talk to. They are the ones who help inspire us on our journey.

“There were two amazing female executive partners in Gartner, who ran a women’s network where I met all sorts of fantastic women CIOs. I wouldn’t say any one of them stood out as the one I aspired to be, but more of that group of people that I regularly met with. There were people in my industry, outside of my industry – and that network of people gave me inspiration,” she smiles as Melina replies “it’s hard not to feel inspired when you’re around those sorts of women.”

Jo points out that the network of women is an answer linked to one of the questions I sent prior to our interview – ‘As a woman in a leadership role within the industry, what strategies do you employ to empower and support other women in the field?’ she highlights the significance of actively watching out for your team and choosing to bring them into different events outside of your 9-5, linking them in with your network and pushing for opportunities of growth and visibility. It’s a strategic move. “It’s how you evolve your career. You need to get exposed to other people and understand what’s going on out outside of your world”

We continue to speak about the changes Jo has seen in her journey, the ways of working and general behaviours throughout the years. Melina and I are completely captivated. As she continues to fill us in on little snapshots of her life, our jaws have dropped, and Jo laughs out loud at our reaction, explaining that we’ve barely scratched the surface ourselves. With a warmth in her voice, Jo reflects on our talk today, and confesses “But all of that, all the experiences an individual goes through life, to some degree, it does shape you. I’ve always believed the best in everybody, I’m a glass very full kind of person”.

It’s clear that her spirit and positivity is illuminated in her success.

“I believe very strongly that we, and only we, are responsible for our destiny. Our careers. Life throws curveballs, the only thing you can control is how you deal with it. No one is in charge of your career except you.”

International Women’s Day 2024 – A Conversation with Francesca Owen (Programme Director at Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust)

I had the pleasure of speaking with Francesca Owen, a visionary leader in this field. With extensive experience, Francesca has played pivotal roles, currently serving as Programme Director at Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. Her strategic vision and unwavering dedication have reshaped healthcare delivery, firmly establishing her as a leader in the industry. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, let’s take a moment to acknowledge Francesca’s outstanding contributions and her commitment to empowering women in the industry.

Reflecting on the theme of International Women’s Day, Francesca emphasised the importance of inspiring inclusion in the digital workplace, encouraging individuals to share their stories, strengths and weaknesses to empower others.

“The importance of inclusion of all women and men in the digital workplace. Setting your story and showing your reality for other women, not to be perfect, because none of us are. Share your strengths and weaknesses, so others can learn with you on that journey of creating digital health transformation and enabling the change for the people who use our services”

Her journey in digital health began unexpectedly, starting as a temp in the NHS, falling into the digital role, before eventually taking on leadership roles. Francesca highlighted pivotal moments that propelled her into leadership roles, including being recommended for a senior role after maternity leave. She acknowledged her growth in speaking up and overcoming barriers, emphasising the importance of ongoing support networks and learning to invest in herself.

“Time and job roles will evolve as technology moves forward, there’ll be other opportunities – look for them, investigate them and seize them.”

“Make sure you know the value that you bring to the table, you bring a valuable perspective and don’t undervalue yourself.”

Francesca credited female leaders like Eileen Jessop, a previous CIO she worked with at the Christie NHS Foundation Trust for inspiring her career journey and emphasised the importance of cultivating self-belief and authenticity in leadership.

“We continue to support each other, and we’ve got that community. I would say that of course there are pivotal moments, but it’s that ongoing network and support that will also support you. Tell the people that you admire what they did is as important to you as it is to them too.”

“Keep pushing yourself in steps. Keep learning. Lots of people are experiencing the same as you and again, we’re not going to be perfect. It’s a learning experience. Remember it’s your  journey and try to keep that growth mindset.”

Looking ahead, Francesca expressed hope for future female leaders in healthcare, advocating for teamwork, self-belief, and true representation. She encouraged women to assert their authority and prioritise work-life balance.

“Give yourself the time and space to decide which areas you are going to be able to do well in, and what you need to let go”

“I think it’s really important tonsure that when women and men work as teams together, all voices are heard. I would encourage people to assume you have the power. Don’t let the power be taken from you. Assume that authority, in your own way.”

In terms of amplifying the voices of underrepresented women, Francesca emphasised the importance of being genuine, fostering wellbeing, and providing space for all viewpoints, women and men, to be heard.

“Be myself and be genuine in what I do – good, or not so good. Show my learning to encourage them to do the same. It’s about wellbeing and bringing teams together.”

“Make sure that all viewpoints are heard, encourage people to influence, and have that ownership. It’s about that power, but recognising different people’s circumstances at different times – women and men. Providing the space for women and men to share and understand what’s going on in their lives and supporting each other. I think understanding people’s perspectives at any given time is excellent for how we work as a team as you get the best from people.”

Francesca highlighted the significance of communication, listening, and supporting each other in achieving common goals within healthcare and beyond.

International Women’s Day 2024 – A Conversation with Lisa Emery (Former CIO at Sussex ICB)

Celebrating International Women’s Day, I’m excited to embark on a journey with some outstanding women, driving innovation in Digital Health. Our conversation will navigate obstacles, victories, and words of wisdom, offering a guiding light for aspiring women in the Digital Health space. To launch this series, I had the pleasure of conversing with Lisa Emery, former Chief Information Officer at NHS Sussex, exploring her journey as a woman in the dynamic landscape of digital health. From her humble beginnings as a Project Manager at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in 2001 – 2002, to her distinguished tenures in prestigious CIO positions at NHS organisations like West Hertfordshire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and NHS Sussex, Lisa’s trajectory is undeniably inspiring.

SABRINA ISKANDAR: Hi Lisa, thank you for joining me, how are you?

LISA EMERY: Hi there, I’m good, thank you.

SI: Happy International Women’s Day! This year’s theme “inspire inclusion”, carries significant weight. What does it mean to you?

LE: Oh, gosh, it means so many things, doesn’t it? It’s massively important. One of the things I’ve always thought is, if you don’t have that diversity of thinking within the teams that are delivering your digital services, how on earth do you speak to the population you’re representing? It’s always been my absolute pleasure to work with really diverse groups of individuals in the digital space and develop and design services that mirror the people that you’re delivering them for. The opportunities and benefit you get from listening to different perspectives is hugely important and absolutely critical to things as well

SI: 100%, I couldn’t agree more. I think the more people you speak to, brings out different perspectives or ideas that you’d maybe never considered, after all, you don’t know what you don’t know. So seeking out those chats with a diverse range of people would broaden your own ways of thinking, but also those around you and even society as a whole.

LE: I think as well, when we start to look at Al and other end technologies coming up, even at its most basic level, you’ve got that risk of introducing bias into the design if you’re not inclusive in your approach. So there’s so many reasons to take that incredibly importantly.

SI:  Definitely. Could you share with us your journey into the digital health industry, and how you may have felt about entering a market predominantly dominated by men?

LE:  Absolutely. I came from a scientific background, I started off as a lab scientist then did a number of projects from there – actually, labs were quite strongly female dominated. Then I crossed over to the project management spaces, and then particularly into ClO roles, I obviously walked into quite a male dominated space, and it was not actually a very culturally diverse space at that point in time. Walking into a room full of people, in your first CIO role, you’ve got that impostor syndrome and if you couple that up with the fact that you’re also one of the only women in the room, it just piles on even more, because it’s just something that you’re acutely aware of. So your perceived lack of knowledge plus, the room you find yourself in makes that really tough. I’m very lucky, actually to have been quite formally and warmly welcomed into the ClO communities, and have had reach out from both men and women in that space, to be friendly and help out on what was really important. But I wouldn’t say it was without its challenges. Simple things like going to conferences, where panels were all male, or that piece that you see in a room where when the conversation starts, the nod is across to the to the men in the room? I would definitely say it’s got better over time, but we’re not there yet.

SI: No, I completely understand. It’s like when you walk into a room, and you’re present, but it’s like the attention is elsewhere and the eye contact isn’t directed towards you during the conversations, but to the other men, or others who had more experience.

LE: I think that’s right. I had experiences where l’d walk into a room or a conversation with a male colleague, on a similar level in terms of job role, and the person you’re speaking to, would refer to the man. IT is not the only industry where you see that.

SI: Yes absolutely, and it’s across all industries. I think it’s how you navigate around it. And I guess being confident, making sure you are heard and your opinions are shared, getting the right people to listen to you, because everyone has great ideas.

LE: Also how you try and overcome – that is actually more prominent in women, isn’t it? That sense of imposter syndrome. And trying to battle through that as well is a bit of a challenge.

SI: Definitely. Were there any other kind of barriers and challenges that you encountered throughout your career?

LE: I suppose, another one is how you then start to build. And, importantly, how to create an environment where you try and encourage more women into the space, create much more opportunity which can be quite difficult. I think, as well, not so much a barrier, but a challenge is when you’re at the start of some of these sort of roles, where you’re overcoming the challenge of your own lack of experience and longevity in the game, and how far you’re able to challenge.If I think of a specific one, early in career, I would have found it quite overwhelming, the notion of an all-male panel in conference, where now, I’m much more confident, because l’ve been around the block a bit to do that. So there’s something about your time and experience you’ve had and what that looks like as well.

SI: You mentioned creating a new environment to allow for more women in the space. How did you do that? What were the wins and challenges that you found in that space?

LE: It’s a tricky one, isn’t it? As you move through, into more senior roles, you get more opportunity. Looking at how your interview panels are constructed, what you’re doing in terms of shortlist for people, the sorts of groups that you engage with actively to make that happen. Are you going out and questioning the EDI approach of that group that you’re working with? Working with people like The Shuri Network to offer out opportunities. I think working with HR colleagues to ensure that when you’re reaching out and advertising for roles or looking for apprenticeships and things, you’re putting some really critical thinking into what you’re working with, to look at where you’re drawing that talent from. That’s something you can take advantage of the more the more senior you get. But it’s a really important thing to sort of critically assess yourself. Are you actually going in looking in the right place?

SI: Yeah, you don’t want to just be ticking a check box. You need to kind of go through it yourself and make sure you’re speaking to all the right people to find the person you want, and provide all equal opportunity.

LE: Absolutely. The danger is, as you said, for example, if you have created a diverse interview panel – is your candidate pool sufficiently diverse? Have you used different ways to look for people? I think being a bit more willing to take risks on people’s levels of experience. Bearing in mind that in many cases, because of the things we’ve been talking about, your candidate pool won’t necessarily include people on the basis that they haven’t had that wealth of experience, or opportunity to create that wealth of experience. Being a bit more open to where people have come from and what they’ve had to overcome to get to that point in the first place.

SI: So, in a panel interview like this, if you had a different opinion to the others, would you usually have to speak up to back a candidate? Or is it more about everyone getting a unanimous decision to shortlist this person into your candidate pool?

LE: I think it’s the mix. I’ve had really good constructive conversations with people on shortlisting panels actually, where you may get a difference of opinion and you’re willing to then take the risk. People are actually willing to question themselves and take a chance and can be really constructive about it. Put your voice in and make sure those people do get an opportunity. You’ve got to hold your nerve, and be willing to admit if it hasn’t worked out quite how you thought.

SI: Over your career, whether it’s during your time as a CIO or lab scientist, have you come across any female leaders who have inspired you? It could be someone from your professional circle, a colleague, or even someone outside of work.

LE: Definitely my mom, she is a brilliant role model for women. She had all of us kids and went back in her 40s to get her degree in science. So, that’s inspiring. And then on a work perspective, I’ve got a number of people really, I always recall back in the national programme for IT going into a really horrendously difficult environment. Again, very male dominated, and was a very difficult programme role in a political environment, new systems going in – it was probably the most challenging programme I’ve done career wise. We had an absolutely fabulous female leader, who’d come over from Australia, and I still keep in touch with. She showed me just brilliantly how to handle being in that environment, but provided me enough cover and space to learn my job. So l keep in touch with her, and I try and take elements of what I do. But there’s been a number of people. Yeah, one does stick out to me.

SI: Oh, amazing. Was that your first big programme role?

LE: It was probably one of the first big ones. Yeah, I had been out in the Middle East for years and came back into that.

SI: Is there a pivotal moment in your career that actually empowered you, or, inspired you to pursue those leadership roles within the NHS?

LE: That’s a really good question. I sort of ended up in digital off the back of 12 or 13 years in the scientific side. I think probably it was just learning through doing some of those projects, and seeing the difference that digital world could make. It became a quite an exciting environment. Something that l thought, you know, you can actually do something quite compelling and interesting here. So I don’t think there was any one particular moment, I just got more interested over a course of a short course of time in learning.

SI: So looking ahead, what are your hopes and aspirations for the next generation of female leaders?

LE: Goodness, so many. I really hope that the gains that we have made continue. I think we’ve got to do far more and I count myself amongst that. Those of us that are established and those of us coming through. Are we doing enough for the next generation, or the younger generation coming through? Are we in schools talking to people? Are we running careers that are out there in health, and in digital, there’s so much to do in that space. And it’s not all about, the important technical skills, there are many transformational type roles, change roles, fantastic opportunities for engaging with communities and what they need. I don’t think we’re always very good at explaining it, We’ve still got this tendency in the digital side to not talk about the breadth of what we do and what ties in with the clinical teams. I think we could do more, and do better. And we’ve talked to colleagues in groups like The Shuri Network about this all the time, we don’t do enough, either to attract that diversity of talent, or retain that talent. We’re getting better, but we’re not quite there yet.

SI: I completely agree. I think also, as someone who recruits to the NHS and supports the organisation in a way to provide good talent, communicating is key in what you do. At the same time presenting to various groups, including younger generations and encouraging their support. Obviously understanding that, I guess, there are different perspectives and ideas around the priorities of Boomers, Millennials and Gen Z. It’s important to navigate those dynamics and finding ways to collaborate effectively with everyone involved.

LE: That’s the thing isn’t it? I agree with you and the danger is you end up just talking to an echo chamber, it’s easy to, we do it in all sorts, every day on social media, with your friends, and to get the answers you want, don’t you? You hear the same voices and the same opinions – it’s a bit like conferences. There are some brilliant ones, but this tendency to hear the same group of people talking about things. I’m sitting here saying it knowing that I’ve been trying to turn things down on the grounds that people have heard enough from, so l know we need to stop doing that and raise up the platform for new people coming through. And, to your point different ways of thinking, people want to work differently these days. The whole concept social constructs different. People can’t afford to live and work in the same way they could be coming through. In the younger generation, it’s just not possible. So actually, you’ve got to adapt how you how you work and how you offer opportunities to people, because things are very different socially as well.

SI: And it’s finding the balance of going with it and have different ways of thinking but also challenging certain ways, and finding a compromise.

LE: The key to compromise is communication. If you’re not talking to people, how do you know what is making it difficult for them or what they are motivated by if you’re not talking to them? You’ve not really got any excuse for moaning about it. The other part of that, of course, is you’ve got to be a bit more robust about it, you’re going to get some critical self-reflection, some of what you hear, you won’t like, and some of it will feel directed. I’ve had conversations where I think I’ve missed something or I’ve not quite understood something well, particularly in the diversity space. Often, your immediate reaction is to be quite defensive and say, well, that’s not what I meant. But it’s to actually just listen. So that’s, that’s a skill that people need to develop a bit more.

SI: Yeah, I completely agree. I think, in every industry, for sure.

LE: Absolutely, that’s across the board. It is difficult, you know that that degree of self-reflection and challenge can be quite tough to take.

SI: What advice would you give to your younger self?

LE: I would probably have looked for some mentorship and guidance a bit sooner, and not thought I could just power through it myself. Definitely. But also to keep going, I would look at myself in the mirror now and say take on board a bit more advice and help from people that were offering it than I did to start with.

SI: So, to all the young women aspiring to leadership positions in the NHS, look for mentorship, and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

LE: Yes, and that doesn’t need to mean that the onus is therefore on that younger person to do that. Me as an older, in career person is going to get just as much out of that relationship. All of the things we’ve just been talking about. You don’t improve that alone, do you? That has to be improved in tandem. It’s the reverse mentorship aspect where it’s massively valuable and important. So yeah, it’s a good mutual benefit. I’d always encourage people to do that. Take some time to do it.

SI: 100%. I love that. And my final question is how would you position your current position and influence to amplify the voices of underrepresented women within the NHS and advocate for their advancement?

LE: There’s a few different ways, so advocating via being an active ally for some of the groups that are trying to address the challenges we’ve spoken about. Putting yourself out there, with groups like The Shuri Network, and others to make a statement, this is what I stand for, this is what I believe in. You’re not there just to prove that you’ve joined a group. Offering out the time for mentorships and sticking to it, it’s equally important. Doing what we said around how you approach your recruitment . And I think, particularly, speaking out when something’s not right. Which continues to be tough. So, you know, if I was asked to go on a panel, for example, at a conference, is there a really good reason that’s an all-male? That there is one female on it? Looking at the conference programme critically and saying, is this a diverse conference? Is it attracting the people I think it should be? And if it’s not, what am I going to say about that? Where do I position myself? What am I advocating by doing certain things? That was one of the things I was really hadn’t prepared myself for when starting an executive role, the fact that so many people are watching you, they watch behaviours, your leadership style. And I hadn’t really thought that through. What you do, what you walk past, how you portray yourself and how you behave is massively important. You’ve got to be really, really aware of that. Thinking about how you project yourself, and how you therefore do or don’t run certain things.

SI: That’s really helpful, when did you realise that actually this is important, and as a leader, I need to be aware of how I portray myself, what I’m saying, my behaviours.

LE: Coming into an environment where you are in a leadership role, you don’t know that an individual is concerned, but you can sense what the underlying tensions and difficulties in that team are. If you walk into your office or down the corridor, with a particular demeaner, or look – that projects itself on how people are feeling, onto the conversations you have, and you can’t easily reset that. It’s not to say you can’t allow yourself to present a vulnerable side at work, but I think there’s something about being authentic about the ways in which you behave and how it impacts other people. Particularly if you want to lead other people as well. And it’s not to say don’t do it, but just being really aware of it.

SI: That’s really interesting as it’s something I’ve noticed as well – obviously I’m not a leader of my own team or anything.

LE: Uh uh, we’re all leaders.

SI: Yeah no, you’re right.

LE: This is the female thing you see! We are all leaders, I bet you have led many many things.

SI: No, you’re right, I just need to take a step back and recognise my own little achievements.

LE: Precisely, good on you!

SI: Thanks Lisa, ended that with a free therapy session as well!

LE: Haha, let’s call it mutual aid.

SI: Those were all my questions! Thank you so much for your time and speaking with me about your journey, it has been really quite wonderful.

LE: No problem, thank you for having me.

Like a Kid at Christmas: Supporting the Children of GOSH

Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children (GOSH) is a Trust we work closely with in a corporate sense, and one which does fantastic work through their charitable arm the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity. GOSH is dedicated to children’s healthcare and to finding new and better ways to treat childhood illnesses. This festive season, our Hunter Healthcare team felt driven to momentarily put aside the pressures of their own busy Christmas schedules to support the work of the charity, the hospital and the patients they support. 

Hamleys Toy Store is a name synonymous with fun, joy and childhood wonder, and never is this more true than during the special Christmas season. Sadly this festive season some of the children currently staying at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children (GOSH) were not well enough to make their own way to Hamleys, which is why our team decided to take it upon themselves to bring a little bit of that Hamleys magic to them. 

Our Hunter Healthcare family were tasked with channelling their inner child, after being given a brief asking them to buy gifts for the children of GOSH on Hunter’s behalf. After being let loose in the store to let their imaginations run wild, our team brought the gifts they had purchased to the Great Ormond Street Charity for distribution to hospitalised children and children’s wards.  

We hope these gifts bring joy and fun to hospitalised children and their families this Christmas. Our team is very grateful to have had the opportunity to support the work of the GOSH hospital and charity. 

Thank you to Hamleys Oxford Street for hosting our Hunter team and sharing in our support of this wonderful cause. If you too would like to support the fantastic work of the Great Ormond Street Charity, more information can be found here: 

Congratulations to all named on the Gifted Ethnic Minority Staff (G.E.MS) 75@75 Leaders List

Hunter Healthcare has been proud to sponsor the recent collaboration between Colourful Healthcare, the organisers of the annual National BAME Health and Care Awards, and The Seacole Group, the national network for ethnic minority Non-Executive Directors and Chairs, on the launch of the first Gifted Ethnic Minority Staff (GEMS) 75@75 Leaders List.

Statistics from the latest NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard report show that staff from Black, Asian and minoritised groups make up almost a quarter of the overall NHS workforce, with similar statistics in the adult social care sector. This report also showed that individuals from these backgrounds make up more than two-fifths of doctors, dentists, and nurses, and almost a third of nurses and midwives within the NHS. Given these statistics, it is important to recognise and celebrate the significant contributions people from these groups have made to the NHS and the wider health and care sector.

Created to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the NHS, the GEMS 75@75 list was designed to recognise the difference being made by health and social care professionals from Black, Asian and other minoritized backgrounds. Nominations for the list were open throughout the month of October (Black History Month), with individuals from within the health and social care sector and beyond being encouraged to recognise the impactful work of their peers by nominating them to be featured on the list.

These nominations have now been compiled, and the 75@75 list has been officially released and can be found here. Congratulations to all of the individuals named on the list. You should be incredibly proud of the contributions you have made and will continue to make within the health and care environment.

Hampers with Heart: Giving Back During the Festive Season

Here at Hunter everything we do is underpinned by our five key company values. One of these values is Do Right – driving us to do right by each other, by our clients, by our candidates and also by our local neighbours. One such neighbour, located across the road from our London office, is the Covent Garden Pantry food bank.

Covent Garden Pantry is a partnership between the Covent Garden Community Centre @ Seven Dials Club, Covent Garden Dragon Hall Trust and The Phoenix Garden. The food bank is a community-run initiative, set up as a response to the Cost of Living crisis. It is designed to meet the immediate need of people in the Holborn and Covent Garden area in need of food and hygiene products.

In the spirit of the festive season and to support this fantastic work, last week a group of Hunter staff members gathered together to put together food hampers of donated items to be given to the Covent Garden Pantry food bank initiative. These hampers were assembled to meet the needs of those struggling in the area, with our team specifically focusing on what might bring extra cheer and relieve some stress during the busy Christmas time. Essential items such as tea, spreads and canned goods were included as well as sweet treats such as chocolates to help spread some joy at what can otherwise be a difficult time of year for some.

In what truly became a neighbourhood effort, The Shaftesbury Theatre very kindly allowed us to use their facilities as a space to put together the hampers, free of charge. We are incredibly grateful for this very compassionate gesture. Once the hampers were complete, our team delivered these to the Covent Garden Pantry to be distributed to the local community.

The overwhelming response from our Hunter team members was around how rewarding it was to take time away from the busyness of our own personal lives to be able to do something for those in need, and we are very grateful to have had the opportunity to engage in an activity such as this. We hope these hampers will go some way towards supporting people in our community who are struggling during the festive season this year.

If you would also like to show your support to the Food Bank, more information can be found here.


Hunter Healthcare is proud to be listed on the NHS Employers Ethical Recruiter List for International Recruitment

Hunter Healthcare is proud to be listed on the NHS Employers Ethical Recruiters List for International Recruitment.

The list has been compiled to create a database of recruitment organisations, agencies and collaborations that operate in accordance with the revised Code of Practice. The guiding principles of the code are as follows:

  • If recruitment is managed properly, international migration of health and social care personnel can develop and strengthen the health and social care systems in both the country of origin and destination country.
  • Individuals, organisations and the wider health and care system are afforded opportunities to train, educate and enhance their clinical practice.
  • Recruitment from countries on the red list is prohibited, unless there is an explicit government-to-government agreement in place.
  • International recruitment of health and social care personnel is closely monitored by Cross Whitehall International Recruitment Steering Group and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
  • With regard to employment and conditions of work, international health and social care personnel will have the same rights and responsibilities as domestically trained staff. This includes access to further education and training, as well as continuous professional development.

To be named on the list organisations must display a commitment to fully adhering to and complying with the Employment Agencies Act 1973 and associated conduct regulations, as well as demonstrating an understanding of the Code of Practice and how it affects the recruitment activity we undertake.

Hunter Healthcare was accepted onto the Ethical Recruiters List in November 2023, and proudly adhere to the terms set out by NHS Employers for inclusion on the list.

Our Learns: The Acute & General Medicine Conference 2023

Hunter Healthcare were proud to attend the Acute and General Medicine Conference this year at London’s ExCeL Centre. The Acute and General Medicine Conference is regarded as the ‘largest annual conference and exhibition involved in emergency, acute and advanced internal medicine’. Isobel Harrop (Medical) and I (Jackson Wilson, Governance, Quality and Nursing) were there, representing Hunter. We had a great time speaking with doctors and nurses from different specialties across the country about their experiences and the issues that are affecting them at the moment.

We were also fortunate to be in sight of Theatre E and so, in between conversations, we managed to catch some of the fascinating lectures that had been going on throughout the conference. Two of the lectures that we found particularly powerful were “Women Empowering Women in Medicine” presented by Dr. Sarb Clare, Deputy Medical Director of Sandwell and West Birmingham, and “Unconscious Bias, Bullying & Behaviour Change” by Scarlett McNally, a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at East Sussex.

While they were on separate topics they both spoke of issues that we hear about every day, and (based on the packed crowds they drew) issues that doctors and nurses know all too well. What was particularly impactful was how both lectures highlighted that these are systemic issues, with no one individual to blame, while also emphasising the individual cost of discrimination and what we, as individuals, can do about it. Dr. Clare gave pragmatic advice on how women can support the women they work with, while Ms. McNally asked us to question our own preconceptions and biases, even those we may not be aware we have.

At Hunter, we speak with individuals across the NHS, so we know the difficulties that people often face and it was incredibly moving to see these issues being talked about so openly. We also know how difficult it can be to implement lasting behavioural and cultural change. It takes the right people being in the right place at the right time. We understand this and we are proud of the work we have done to support this. Most recently we sponsored Colourful Healthcare and the Seacole Group’s Hidden Gem awards, celebrating NHS staff from diverse racial backgrounds, and we supported Lancashire Teaching Hospitals with the placement of the NHS’s first ever Filipino Chief Nurse.

In the current climate, now more than ever it is important to remember how much value diversity of thought and background can bring especially within the healthcare sector. Dr. Clare and Ms. McNally’s impactful lectures emphasized the collective responsibility to combat discrimination, providing valuable insights into fostering a more inclusive healthcare environment. As we continue our commitment to supporting positive change, we are reminded of the vital role diversity plays in enhancing the healthcare sector, and we remain dedicated to championing inclusivity and supporting organisations to address the challenges within the sector.

If you or your organisation would like to have a conversation about how we might be able to support you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Making Diversity a Reality at Board Level

Following a recommendation from Yvonne Coghill, The University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT) came to us with a dilemma: they had a significant amount of diversity within their Nursing workforce in particular, and no Black or Minority Ethnic representation on their Executive Board. The NHS set a target to increase the representation of Black Minority Ethnic staff in senior leadership roles to 20% by 2021.

The population of Morecambe Bay is considerably less ethnically diverse than the population of England. Black and Minority Ethnic groups account for only 5% of the resident population (including white non-British). Nevertheless, recent WRES data shows that at UHMBT, 40% of nurses up to Band 5 and 12% up to band 7, are Black or Minority Ethnic. However, there were only two BME senior nurses who had reached band 8a. Upon speaking with the Head of Inclusion and Engagement at UHMBT, it was also clear that some staff were experiencing racism from their colleagues. Therefore, alongside campaigns such as UHMBT’s Anti Racist Nursing Leadership Programme, it was important to the Trust that their next Executive Chief Nurse (ECN) would not only champion diversity, but tackle racism and commit to their Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) programmes.

To increase diversity at Board level, we recognise that the support must be in place for Nursing leaders to take the leap, into territory where they may feel underrepresented. We undertook the following steps to encourage an inclusive recruitment process, which would be attractive not just to current ECN’s, but also experienced deputies:

  • Mentoring: we spoke with Nursing leaders at ICB level to agree a two-year wrap around mentoring programme for the joining ECN, to encourage those with less experience to apply.
  • Intentional and proactive in our efforts: Hunter’s collaborative research with The Seacole Group, ‘The Way Forward’, indicated that only 14% of respondents found out about their role through traditional advertisement. We engaged with Nursing leaders through diversity networks, following recommendations, and those we knew had not been appointed at other recent shortlisting events, which can discourage individuals from applying for similar opportunities.
  • Inclusive language: recruitment materials made specific reference to tackling inequalities in the Trust and the community. This made it clear that UHMBT recognises that having representation of the workforce at the top allows for a wider range of perspectives, more creative and innovative solutions to challenges, improves employee morale and reduces turnover.
  • Feedback: If candidates were not interested in the opportunity, we asked them what would need to be different to encourage them to apply. If we could see a reasonable pathway to accommodate these changes, we challenged UHMBT to do so.
  • Knowledge building: candidates valued the opportunity to speak to their potential future Board colleagues informally, whilst Hunter gave them insight on how their skills and perspective might enable them to add value to UHMBT and the Board.
  • Support and assistance: candidates need to be able to draw on the advice, guidance, and support on the recruitment team during what can be a difficult and unfamiliar process. This included interview preparation and writing advice, particularly if English was a second language or they had not undergone a formal interview process for some time.
  • EDI focused stakeholder session: to ensure the appointed candidate would be an accountable champion for the Nursing workforce, the candidates chaired their own stakeholder sessions, including one with a panel consisting of the Inclusion and Engagement leaders at UHMBT.

Following a competitive shortlisting process, UHMBT has welcomed Tabetha Darmon as their next ECN, who was the Interim Executive Director of Nursing at Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. Tabetha is part of the NHS BAME Leadership network and has a commitment to being both the patient and clinician ‘voice’. She is a graduate from the Nye Bevan Leadership Programme and has over 15 years of experience in Nursing leadership.

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