Furthering on our celebrations for Black History Month, our Chief Executive Peter Lewis reflects on way he is proud to be an ally.

“I’m deeply proud of the contribution that our multicultural colleagues make to the NHS in Somerset and it feels right that collectively as a trust we join the global celebration of Black History Month this October.

When I was first appointed as chief executive in 2017, I believed I treated people in a fair and equal manner and never held any prejudices. Following open and honest conversations with our multicultural colleagues, I began to think again – unless you look, you don’t see. I believe that while we do things with the right intentions, we don’t necessarily see what’s happening for many reasons, such as history, upbringing, or the experiences you’ve had.

It’s not until you talk to people and listen to their experiences that you get a true picture of what life is like for them. It’s powerful listening to our multicultural colleagues’ stories and at times it can be very emotional. But I think we can have such a positive impact if we create the right environment for people to be themselves. Our networks have given us a point of focus where people can come together in a safe space to have these conversations.

For me inclusion is a sense of belonging and, ultimately, we are a better organisation by being inclusive. Diversity is a great thing as no one individual or group of people will think the same or have the same answers. This helps us all come together and maximise what we can do for patients and the local population.

When it comes to language there is something about challenging ourselves and thinking about it a bit more. When I hear a phrase, I’m uncomfortable with, I like to think about its history, and I start to ask questions about it. On the other hand, we shouldn’t be afraid to have a conversation about feeling awkward or uncomfortable and not being sure we’re using the right words. We often worry that we might say the wrong thing but saying nothing is often worse.
The differences in our cultures should never change how we treat each other. In fact, we should celebrate the different approaches and backgrounds that we all bring to the NHS and the benefit that brings to all of us and the care we provide.

That’s why I’m proud to be an ally.”

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