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.