Focus On

In the run up to this year’s Diversity and Inclusion Conference, we’re sitting down with some of our world class industry speakers for a “Speaker in the Spotlight” interview to hear more about their role, responsibilities and what they are most looking forward to about the event. Today we are joined by Hasan Reza, Head of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Trust…

1. Can you provide us with an insight into a ‘day in the life’ of your role?

Heading up EDI at an NHS Trust is a lot more encompassing a role than it may initially sound. At the moment, many Trusts have single people departments – so while the title is Head of EDI it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a team to manage! This brings both its benefits and its challenges. I enjoy working with people and have a great footing in people management from my time on the Royal Mail Group graduate scheme but I know some EDI leads have found it freeing in the sense they can dedicate all their time to the primary work at hand and not have to juggle the various elements of people management on top. Colleagues in my position will be feeding into Trust strategy, helping draft and at times write policy, reviewing new policy to ensure key EDI considerations have been made alongside the day to day management of concerns being raised, colleagues requesting support, etc. We also usually assist in developing the Trusts EDI training and at times provide that training. In both this role and my most recent EDI role I’ve also been providing workshops and roadshows on our key areas; such as microaggressions training, the merits of being an active bystander and other key initiatives we’ve been running. There’s a lot that lands on your table in this role within the NHS!

2. How has Covid affected your workplace and employee engagement?

For the 1st and 2nd waves I was in my previous role, working as a Project Manager in a slightly smaller, Mental Health & Community based NHS Trust. As I was leading on the Trusts programme of work to revitalise the culture and develop a fairer working environment and processes for all employees I had the unique opportunity to hear first-hand from many colleagues as to their experiences of 2020 and 2021. To say it’s been challenging would be an understatement. I’d like to focus on the bits though that get less attention. We all know about the struggles covered in the media and shared between colleagues and friends but what I heard a lot of was how lonely and isolated teams felt during the initial waves of Covid. We served a number of prison communities, had secure in-patient units and staff working across a wide geographical area. Previously they were used to the occasional visit from members of the Trust Exec, senior HR colleagues, etc. But as a result of the pandemic these were all cancelled – for very understandable reasons around limiting exposure – and replaced with live vidcasts. Unfortunately, teams in prisons weren’t able to take in personal or Trust devices due to the strict rules the prisons had in place. In patient unit staff reported they rarely had the time to be able to join these sessions. So they went from reasonably regular facetime with senior Trust colleagues to nothing. That was really hard for a lot of them. I tried to counteract this in my remit of the programme I was managing and did make a number of visits to Prison teams, in patient teams and all of our other teams willing to host me. The results of this was fantastic and it remains one of the most effective means of engaging colleagues and engaging them in matters of EDI that I have come across to date. I also launched a Trust Podcast that allowed colleagues to access the same information plus discussions on EDI current affairs at their leisure or even have it playing in the background while they worked. That too had a great effect. I spent a lot of my youth in and out of hospitals due to an array of health difficulties, one of the most engaged hospitals I regularly stayed at actually had their own Radio Station with dedicated staff time and even segments for patients. Again, it was abundantly apparent how much staff appreciated this and how close it bought them to central Trust activities.

3. What do you think the future will look like for diversity and inclusion?

Unfortunately it’s taken some really horrible circumstances but EDI is finally at the top of the agenda in companies and organisations worldwide. I think now is the time for EDI leads and colleagues with a real interest in furthering the EDI agenda to ensure they are working every avenue they can. The momentum we have now we haven’t had for a long time if ever in the past. Many challenging and uncomfortable discussions are taking place that previously would have been shunned or politely side lined. CEOs, CPOs, CFOs are engaging directly in EDI departments. I’d like to say the future is looking positive but I think a lot of that depends on us and how we engage with these processes and ensure they remain top of or a significant part of company strategy, agenda, etc. in the years to come.

4. We’re very excited about hear your thoughts and opinions during your panel discussion! Any chance we can get a sneak peek about what you will be specifically discussing?

I hope to discuss some of my first hand experiences as someone with a disability and the work we need to do to ensure equality and inclusion for employees and applicants with disabilities, seen or unseen. I’ve been lucky to have some fantastic experiences. I’ve also been at the receiving end of some really deplorable comments and actions related directly to me being physically disabled. I think often disability is not given the time and attention in the EDIsphere it deserves because of how much is going on at any one time. I also think that society is quick to make a comment or pass judgement in regards to someone’s disability and flippantly compare the experiences of someone with a lifelong health condition and/or disability to their own experience of fairly trivial ailments. That lack of inhibition is something you don’t tend to see when it comes to discussions concerning the other protected characteristic groups – where very similar behaviour and comments would be treated very seriously.

5. What are you most looking forward to about the event?

Hearing from others working in the same area as me but from a wide array of different companies and organisations!

Hasan will be taking part in the exclusive panel discussion focusing on “Creating a diverse, inclusive culture in a modern workplace” on Tuesday 23rd November – you can register your FREE ticket to the event and catch Hasan’s discussion live at the Diversity and Inclusion Conference here

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