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Windrush anniversary - celebrating authenticity and diversity in our workforce

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This year is the 75th anniversary of the HMT Empire Windrush arriving in Tilbury Docks on 22 June 1948 from the Caribbean. Many of those on board came to work in the newly formed NHS. They were, and continue to be, the talent in the NHS’s history. Their descendants – and indeed descendants of those who have come to the UK from all over the world – are an essential part of our rich and diverse health and care workforce.    

FNF is committed to providing equity of access to leadership opportunities for nurses and midwives from the global majority. On this anniversary, with thanks to the NHS Workforce, Training and Education Directorate, we are launching our next Windrush Leadership Programme for nurses and midwives from a global majority background. We want to close the gap in career opportunities across health and social care settings.  

Today we also celebrate nurses and midwives who have already participated in our leadership programmes and those who are Windrush descendants. Read on to hear some of these experiences:

Dionne Thompson works as a multiple pregnancy midwife for East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust.  

“The FNF leadership programme for midwives and nurses from a global majority background helped me to learn that my own authenticity is as important as everybody else is. I used to sit on the sidelines, take it all in, and then maybe occasionally, I would say something. But now I am more confident in having my own opinion and that that is just as valid as anyone else’s. 

As part of the FNF programme I carried out a project to increase cultural awareness for staff working in maternity services and have an impact on care given and outcomes for Black and Ethnic Minority women. Women from a global majority background have much higher maternal mortality rates than white women and this is deeply concerning. Now we are doing cultural competency training and collecting better data from the women within our service – improving this survey to engage the women completing it better. 

Since the programme my visibility in the department has really grown. I got my Band 7 while doing the course! Long-term my self-esteem is better – I am more authentically myself, and not only in my working life.” 

Dionne has since been awarded a 2023-24 FNF Leadership Scholarship. 

Chitra Sanjel is a Practice Development Nurse in ICU at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. Chitra graduated from FNF’s first Windrush leadership programme in 2019. 

“The FNF Windrush leadership programme not only introduced me to the powerful and motivational speakers, leadership style, improvement project but also opened further opportunities to me. I was invited to speak at the launch of my Trust’s BAME network and Windrush Day celebration where I used the communication skills learnt from RADA training.

I was nominated as a London RCN Rising Star and won the award at the October Black History celebration event. Immediately after completing the programme, I was able to secure band 6 ICU sister post and worked throughout the pandemic looking after critically ill patients in ICU.

I was one of the first cohorts of Professional Nurse Advocates that trained in 2021 and have been running restorative clinical supervision to support my colleagues. I managed to complete Msc Professional Practice in ICU and my primary research on ICU staff retention was selected to be presented on annual conference of British Association of Critical Care Nurse.

In addition I am voluntary Treasurer of the Nepalese Nursing Association UK (NNAUK) and look after the professional development of my fellow Nepalese nurses. Recently I coordinated NNAUK’s virtual annual conference which was accessed by hundreds of nurses.  

Networking is another learning from the programme, and we have formed a whatsapp group to update each other about opportunities, events and learnings.

Doing the Windrush Leadership programme was an important turning point in my professional life. It made me believe in myself and that being a nurse from ethnic minority should not prevent me from aiming higher. I feel like the programme equipped me with confidence and provided me with wings to fly higher.

FNF believes that authenticity is at the core of effective leadership. We are committed to promoting and embracing the many voices and diverse experiences that make up our health and care system and creating an inclusive environment and bring their whole self to work. 

We want to do more. We have recently launched an action orientated anti-racism statement that sets out our commitment and plans. 

We thank and celebrate the nurses and midwives who arrived on HMT Empire Windrush, and all those who have since arrived in the UK to support the UK’s health and sectors. As FNF Trustee Professor Laura Serrant OBE orated her poem at our scholar conference: You called and we came.

Find out more about our Windrush Leadership Programme and all our upcoming programmes

“I do feel that it is so important to mark the anniversary of Windrush and celebrate all the people who have come from overseas and who contribute to the health care system around the country. Celebrating the diversity of our healthcare workforce will make everyone feel recognised and valued and it should not be limited to a single day celebration but throughout the year.”

Chitra Sanjel