Saturday, 24 October 2015

Yvonne, BME, Women & King's Fund

On 22 October 2015 the Kings Fund announced that it has appointed Marcus Powell as its new Director of Leadership Development ( ) King’s Fund CEO Chris Ham put out a tweet about it. That provoked a set of tweets from Yvonne Coghill who seemed to be disappointed on why Vijaya Nath who was the acting director of leadership development did not get the substantive post.

This reminded me of my interaction with Kings Fund in October 2012. It could give a background on why Chris Ham did what he did now. It could help us understand the difficulty involved in obtaining justice and equality to various sections of the society.

I have experienced the TMP at the King’s Fund in 2009, it is possibly the best programme in leadership and personal development for healthcare professionals in UK. So I have an interest in King’s Fund and its activity. I have always wondered on why the various brilliant activities have not delivered the outcomes to the UK that King’s Fund would have liked to see.

That is when I discovered that the King’s Fund General Advisory Council which is appointed by HRH Prince Charles did not have a single member who was from the Black or Minority Ethnic segment of our population. Here is a highly respected think tank which is well aware that BMEs make up a significant section of the population and are a major part of the engines that run the healthcare system in UK yet did not have the maturity or the insight to realise that the General Advisory Council was exclusively white.

I then found that the General Advisory Council that I refer to was appointed in December 2010. Chris Ham took over as Chief Executive of the King’s Fund in April 2010. The General Advisory Council is appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Chief Executive.

I wrote to the President of the King’s Fund HRH Prince Charles, raising my concerns about the lack of inclusivity at a high profile place which he heads as President.

The private secretary to Prince Charles responded stating that the appointments are a matter for the Chief Executive and passed it on to Prof Chris Ham; the letter also said that Chris had ‘will wish to be in touch with you about the points that you raise’. When I saw the letter I knew that things would change.

Of course Prof Chris Ham then wrote to me to say that he aimed to strengthen representation from BME groups and ‘will achieve this’ ‘from January 2013’

When I saw this letter, I knew that the King’s Fund General Advisory Council would have BME members from January 2013 and it did. If I remember right, Lord Adebowale and two (or three) others were promptly appointed. The current General Advisory Council seems to have numerous BME members. 

When I saw that letter from Prof Ham, I also was a little bit uncomfortable, the letter is office speak and officialdom in its content. There was no regret for the lack of insight and BMEs were seen as representatives or representation.

BMEs in such councils if they are representatives, they are representatives of what or whom? Of other BME people in the country? Do white people in the council appointed to represent other white people in the country? I do not think so.

I did not pursue this further. I am not sure if I should take any part of the credit for putting BME in the GAC of the King’s Fund or blame myself for becoming part of what could be seen as a tick box exercise and not challenging it at that time?

I do not want any BME ‘representatives’, I want people who are there and happen to be BME. We have to challenge this narrative which implies that the majority is there by a certain credential and BME are there to represent.

Yvonne, Vijaya and BME members of the General Advisory Council – I hope I have given you some background to the story of how organisations function; not that you did not already know it, in which case I have provided some specifics about King’s Fund. I am absolutely certain that the BME members of the GAC are very worthy to be there but for a minute put aside your uniform, put aside your membership and clarify if you are representing BMEs in healthcare or you are people interested in healthcare who happen to be of BME origin. The easy answer is for the BME to think that they are the later category and the King’s Fund to say so; that will be comfortable for everyone. The reality is such questions need no answers, they need serious mature deep thoughtful reflection followed by explicit tangible action.

I am confident that the new Director of Leadership will do a great job for the King’s Fund but if he wants that to translate into a great job for British healthcare, his agenda, span, scope of action just became much greater.


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PS: I have already spoken about lack of BME presence in Berwick report and predicted that it may not have a desired impact on UK healthcare

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