Published on: 22 September 2022

Next week the Trust will celebrate equality, diversity and inclusion – not just with colleagues but with partners, patients, their families and carers too as our third annual Festival of Inclusion begins.

This is a pivotal initiative as we strive to develop an inclusive culture and I am glad we have been able to keep it in the Trust’s calendar, even through all the difficulties created by the pandemic.

I am proud of our diverse workforce and the care we provide to everyone equally, irrespective of their background. You’ll see our new multi-lingual welcome signs celebrating this, we have an ‘inclusion wall’ too and there will be more visible declarations of our intent as we continue to make progress in this hugely important area for years to come.

You’ll be able to hear more about all the strands of inequality during the festival and I encourage you to get involved to understand more about how we can acknowledge and celebrate our differences, whilst making sure everyone is treated fairly and with equal respect.

I have no doubt what we’ll consistently discover is that we have more in common than will ever set us apart.

As part of the packed programme which you can see in full here, each day a different podcast will be published through our channel ELHT Audio, accessible through music streaming services or your smart speaker or device.

I was personally honoured to join colleagues representing the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) network to talk about race, racism and taking the next step as an organisation and becoming anti-racist. You will be able to listen to it yourself when it is published, but I was humbled to hear feedback from the group that they felt my support and allyship was important.

So let me repay that compliment and state where I am on this. Simply being against unacceptable or discriminatory language or behaviour is no longer enough and if you see something I encourage you to actively say something. Racism, or indeed any form of discrimination, has no place in our culture, within our wards, in our community or our workplaces but if you listen into the podcast, you’ll hear it does still exist.

Following each podcast, Executive Directors will hold a private drop in event for colleagues who want to talk more in a safe and confidential way. If you have an experience you’d like to share, feedback about how the Trust could support you better or just want to drop in to talk, please do. Your input will be greatly valued and colleagues will actively listen to what you have to say.

I know it can be difficult to open up and talk about things which are affecting you, especially at work where there’s a natural fear it might affect your role, career prospects or just how colleagues perceive you in the team. However it is important that we are able to bring our whole selves to work.

For this reason, I want to share my own story.

A couple of years ago, following an accident abroad whilst cycling, I was diagnosed with frontotemporal lobe epilepsy which has significantly changed my life. The first few times I noticed something was ‘going on’, what I now know to be a seizure, but I just brushed it off. I kept describing it to my wife as I was having another one of those ‘funny doos’.

It became more serious when I actually lost consciousness and crashed my car into the back of a wagon on the M6, near Charnock Richard services. I was heading to a meeting at Preston Business Centre, pre-pandemic, in those days when everyone jumped in their cars and rushed to get to places on time. I felt the same funny feeling, then blacked out and came to on the hard shoulder with the driver of the wagon I’d hit asking me if I was OK. It certainly was a significant crash but I was thankfully uninjured and so was he.

Of course, I’m acutely aware now that the outcome could have been quite different and I am eternally grateful to have survived. Following tests by NHS colleagues close to home in Liverpool I was eventually diagnosed. I’d had a seizure whilst driving and I continue to have them to this day. Since then, I have been living with this condition and learning about what it means.

A critical part of this has been to disclose my long-term condition to my line manager, our Chairman Professor Eileen Fairhurst, seek the help of Occupational Health and tell my closest colleagues and work friends. I’m glad I have been open and shared it with them, even though I don’t want to talk about it all the time or for people to think differently about me because of my condition. I can still do my job and I don’t intend to let it stop me any time soon.

I know this is the case for many people who have a disability or a long-term condition – the call between being open and sharing really personal information to allow colleagues, line managers etc, to understand and support, making reasonable adjustments to your working life but at the same time not wanting anyone to treat you differently.

This is explored in another podcast which was recorded for the Festival of Inclusion, where representatives from the disability staff network talk about their experiences, what has helped them with their work-life balance and what more we can do to make sure they’re equally valued and effective, even though they might need some adjustments to be in place. The conversation is honest and well worth a listen to help with understanding – to walk in someone else’s shoes and see the world through their lens.

The Festival of Inclusion aims to do just that, improve understanding and perhaps spot there are people around you who might have a personal struggle but it doesn’t make their contribution any less. That they continue to be determined to deliver and overcome is admirable and should be celebrated.

Please, do get involved. Not just next week but by actively championing, challenging and celebrating difference each and every day. This is the spirit of ELHT, for each other as colleagues and for our partners, patients, their families and carers too.

Thanks for everything you’re doing to make everyone feel valued equally.  It is through your continued efforts that we will develop a truly inclusive culture and make ELHT an even better organisation. I appreciate it.