Leaving on a high with Inclusion Award

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Babs Harris, our Head of Inclusion, has been awarded a prestigious Integrated Care System (ICS) Black History Month Gratitude Award for her work and dedication to diversity. It’s particularly timely as Babs retires this week following 26 years at the Trust. We caught up with Babs to find out more about her achievements:

Congratulations on your award, how did you find out? A colleague from a neighbouring Trust told me! It’s a nice way to go out as I finish at the Trust.

Tell us about your career at UHSussex, where did it start? I initially joined legacy Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust (BSUH) on a two-week placement to support pharmacy administration, and ended up staying eight years. I then worked for three years for the Director of Nursing where I was involved in submitting Healthcare Commission (previously CQC) reports. I didn’t feel we were doing enough about equality and so a previous Chairman suggested I write a business case to address this. After taking on the role on a 6-month secondment in2007, the rest is history and we now have several team members with varied skills and experience. 

What have been the biggest challenges? Funding – it can be challenging balancing competing issues as they are all important. I would also say it’s been a journey getting the organisation to understand why diversity and inclusion is important and that it impacts all of us, including our patients. When I started in role, less than 300 members of staff had completed diversity training. However, working with my colleague Simon Anjoyeb we previously managed to grow this to over 80% of legacy BSUH staff completing training. 

What are you most proud of in your time at the Trust? In 2015 Simon and I were joint winners of the NHS Kent, Surrey and Sussex Inclusivity Leader of the Year nominated by our peers, which was nice. Also in 2018 I joined the first cohort to be trained as an NHS Workplace Race Equality Scheme (WRES) expert. This means I can help support organisations to become better employers with regards to race inclusion, and in turn increase patient safety. The other thing that makes me proud is receiving feedback from colleagues around the positive impact we have had for them.

What are your hopes for UHSussex? Currently 20% of our workforce are from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, and so I hope we can go some way to improving this – particularly at bands 7 and above. Work is in progress, though we have experienced delays due to COVID. I also hope inclusion becomes truly valued in our new organisation, and that everyone plays a role in taking positive action to improve staff and patient experiences.

What’s next for you? I plan to take a couple of months off and then I’ll look for a new challenge. This last year has been tough, so I need the head space to chill. I enjoy reading, cooking and singing, and I have 5 grandchildren ranging from 4–16, so I won’t be bored!