Why I became a governor at South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Beverley Powell profile picture

26 July 2022

Beverley Powell
Public Governor
South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

What motivated you become a governor?

When I reflect on my career, I think of my leadership legacy and what my leadership legacy means for me. Having been a governor for just over 12 months now, I feel I can share my career and life experience, and in doing so, give back to my community.

What career/jobs/life experiences have you had that are relevant to your governor role?

I was drawn to working with South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust due to it being a provider of mental health services. Being from a Caribbean family, culturally, mental health was viewed differently. Growing up I viewed how members of the Caribbean community would talk about mental health in a negative way and I wanted to know why.

Greater Manchester police employed me. As a result of the untimely racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, and the recommendations that followed, several colleagues and I decided to help form the first Black and Asian Police Association known as BAPA. We looked at data, policies and integrated recommendations for recruitment and retention and brought insights back to the Manchester police force command team.

In parallel I studied a post graduate degree in education. I aligned with a local girl's school, where I recognised a lot of black girls had negative views and experiences with the police. During this period, I helped to coordinate and lead, along with the local school engagement, black male and female police officers to come into the police headquarters and talk with the girls so they could interact with the police in a positive way and gain greater insight.

A senior leadership role in the prison service followed at a time when there had been national focus on the prison service.

Beverley Powell    Public Governor

A senior leadership role in the prison service followed at a time when there had been national focus on the prison service following the murder of Zahid Mubarak, a young Muslim teenager. Responsible for the management of the foreign national prison officer and the race equality prison office and disability prison officer, I reported directly to the number one governor for the prison.

Several years in the NHS followed as an equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) lead in the provider sector providing leadership and management of the implementation of a three-year Single Equality Scheme as required under the Equality Act.

I was then appointed as the talent and EDI lead for the NHS North East Yorkshire Humber region. After two years amalgamated, where I then came to work in the NHS Leadership Academy. I was invited to work with Prerana Issar (the then chief people officer for NHS England) on the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the Black, Asian and minority ethnic workforce. At the time we were looking at personal protective equipment and risk assessments. Through this research and conversations with frontline nurses, and as a wider working group on this key matter of inequality, we were able to readdress this and provide key recommendations. One recommendation was to review the diversity of our Freedom To Speak Up Guardians.

I have gained much experience over the years, and I believe that with these skills and insights I can help shift the dial and shift people's experience, and system thinking on matters of EDI. It is important to have diverse governors who can contribute to improvement, engagement, and access of services for those who have a different experience of the NHS and its services.

What do you think is the most important role a governor plays?

Important roles include influencing diversity of representation, being able to hold your non executive directors (NEDs) to account and being able to share your insights from any local engagement with the community who access our services. A governor represents others and is an important role.

A broad representation of governors, members, and voices from the community is also key. As governors we are working with different generations, and the younger generation have a lot to offer.

Understanding what makes our staff and community feel safe and culturally supported is important. I was having a conversation with our Filipino nurses, and being able to listen to their experiences, what they go through and the cultural challenges they may face is important. There is a whole lot of work involved in being a governor, and it is important to turn up and understand EDI. This is everybody's business.

What do you enjoy most about being a governor?

As a people person, I enjoy meeting different people and understanding the way people think and listening to their personal insights. I also enjoy innovation, so I like coming to meetings and contributing as appropriate to different ways of approaching problems.

What changes in healthcare that you see locally or nationally excite you?

The work by Dr Anton Emmanuel for the Workforce Race Equality Standard programme excites me. This work has moved on a level and is linking with the Care Quality Commission.

The work by Dr Bola Owolabi also excites me as Dr Bola and her team nationally are out in the community addressing health inequalities.

What contribution do you feel you have made as an individual governor and a collective council of governors (CoG) to support EDI?

Asking a lot of questions and doing the critical thinking. When I get my papers, I read them in advance so I can ask NEDs effective questions. I learned this important skill of asking effective questions from the NHS Providers training sessions.

How does your foundation trust/CoG strive to ensure all voices in the community are represented and engaged?

We have regular meetings, and we all cover one area, so I cover the West Yorkshire region and we connect and share updates on a regular basis about the communities we have supported in each region. We also have regional meetings with governors where we discuss challenges and share intelligence. These processes are useful and helpful, they help all of us understand what is happening around the patch as we cannot get everywhere.

As we move towards more integrated working what opportunities/challenges does this present for EDI?

Moving towards integrated working will provide a lot of opportunities and challenges. Two things come to mind when I think about moving to integrated working: power and privilege. We need to understand that it is not just the NHS leading on this – we must act as a wider system. We need to think about who is around the table and who is missing. We need resilient EDI leads with a depth of expertise and an organisational development perspective. This will take some time but if EDI is the golden thread for integrated working it will be an amazing opportunity.

Do you have any advice or suggestions to other governors on how to promote EDI in their trust?

I would invite governors to engage with difference, someone who has not had their own lived experience. This starts with trust, and feeling safe to share your story and listening. Powerful insights can come from such relationships.

About the author

Beverley Powell profile picture

Beverley Powell
Public Governor

Beverley Powell is a public governor at South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. She is also a senior programme manager within leadership and lifelong learning and talent management at the National Leadership Academy. In 2014 Beverley was nationally recognised by the Health Service Journal as one of the top 50 ethnic minority pioneers for her work in providing leadership and strategic direction of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI).

Beverley spent several years as an EDI Manager in the acute sector. She led and provided insight into the patient experience of diverse patients in the community. Beverley has also designed and delivered EDI leadership development for front line clinical staff, and board members of trusts.

Beverley was also responsible for the coordination and management of the first Black and Asian police staff network in Greater Manchester Police after the murder of young Black teenager Stephen Lawrence, and the subsequent report which addressed institutional racism across all UK police forces.

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