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Since I wrote the editorial for Black History Month in 2011, the NHS has changed almost beyond recognition. The 'no major change' promised by Andrew Lansley on taking office as health secretary in 2010 has turned into a huge, organisational and economic restructuring. It has culminated in an entirely new ministerial team and the appointment of Jane Cummings as chief nursing officer and Viv Bennett as director of nursing at the Department of Health.
What has not changed is the longstanding underrepresentation of black and minority ethic nurses (BME) in senior influential positions in the NHS. Despite numerous initiatives to help BME nurses to advance, there are still far too few in senior positions, with only two BME nursing directors in NHS hospitals. However, I am encouraged that nurse Paula Vasco-Knight has been appointed lead for national equalities at the NHS Commissioning Board, while continuing her role as chief executive of South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust as well as heading up the NHS Equality Delivery System.
Another positive development has been the establishment of the prime minister's nursing and care quality forum. Its chair Sally Brearley was invited to a chief nursing officer's BME advisory group meeting, and subsequently two members of the advisory group were invited to join the forum and take part in the forum's four workstreams. My remit has been with the forum's culture and values workstream - it is important that the new organisations and those under contract to the NHS demonstrate the behaviours and attitudes that enable BME nurses to advance in their careers.
The chief nursing officer and director of nursing have recently published their vision and strategy under the heading 'Developing the culture of compassionate care'. In it, we are asked to have courage to do the right thing, be bold and to speak up when things are wrong.
I hope that with new nursing leadership at the top of the NHS, we will see courageous leaders across the health service who are willing to promote more BME nurses into senior positions. BME nurses bring different new solutions to old problems, solutions that can benefit staff and patients alike.
Editorial | October 3rd 2012 | Volume 27 Week 5
Feature: Unequal opportunities
Feature: Empower yourself
Feature: Mental scars of racism
Reflections: Equality is our aim
Careers: Help with climbing the career ladder
Students: Broaden your cultural base
Nursing Standard is published every Wednesday by RCN Publishing Company Ltd, the publishing company of the Royal College of Nursing.
It seeks to promote professional excellence, and encourage creativity and innovation in nursing, midwifery and health visiting practice. Nursing Standard also aims to enhance nurses' and healthcare assistants' career development and to help them achieve and maintain a healthy and rewarding working environment. Nursing Standard is editorially independent and the opinions expressed are not those of the RCN or of the contributor's employing organisation unless specifically stated.