Celebrating National Staff Networks Day: How we’re ‘raising the bar’ in south east London

08 May 2024
NHS South East London

Staff networks play a vital role in fostering inclusivity, diversity and collaboration within the South East London Integrated Care System (SEL ICS). As we mark this year’s Staff Networks Day (8th May), under the theme of ‘raising the bar’, it’s crucial to recognise the importance of these networks in driving positive change.

They provide a platform for underrepresented groups to amplify their voices, share experiences and advocate for important change. By bringing together individuals with shared experiences and challenges, these networks create a sense of belonging and solidarity among staff members. They offer a safe space for dialogue, support, and empowerment, enabling individuals to thrive in their roles and contribute effectively to the organisation.

By acting as catalysts for cultural change, staff networks can help to challenge biases, and promote inclusivity at all levels. Through initiatives, events and advocacy efforts, they can help to raise awareness about important issues, drive policy changes and contribute to a more equitable and supportive work environment for all.

The SEL ICS EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) committee wants to acknowledge and appreciate the invaluable contributions of staff networks in raising the bar for diversity, inclusion and excellence within our system. One powerful example are those which have been established at King’s College Hospital.

King’s Women’s Network, with over 1,100 members, this network has grown rapidly since its inception in 2022. The Co-Chair model, representing nursing, medical and administrative staff, ensures a true understanding of the challenges faced by women across different staff groups are facing.

The Co-Chairs said: “We know from experience now that our members want to take more control of their lives and find our pensions and women’s health sessions incredibly useful.” Through insightful events addressing topics like women’s health, empowering members, creating a safer and more supportive workplace for all women at all levels and stages of their career. The network achieved the following in the past year:

  • Ran 25 events, including multiple events to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in November and International Women’s Day in March. They also hosted a series of workshops with King’s Pensions Manager and an external investment platform with the aim of bringing financial empowerment to members.
  • Supported the Trust to improve staff experiences around reporting and the support available with sexual harassment and violence. This included creating a member’s survey and developing an awareness campaign through posters promoting active bystander principles.
  • Facilitated signing of the BMA’s ‘Ending Sexism in Medicine’ pledge on behalf of the Trust and working on initiatives contributing to the action plan.

King’s Able network, with 291 members, has doubled its membership in the past year and is committed to amplifying the voices of the disabled community.

The Chair said: “The Network has ‘raised the bar’ by using the lived experiences from members to drive culture change within the organisation. We bring voices to the table at senior leadership level, bring external and internal stakeholders together, celebrate and raise awareness of the things that matter to our disabled community. The work has only just begun and as a Network, we must continue to drive the change that is needed and raise the bar even higher.”

Through their platform, disabled staff find solidarity, support and a space to address the unique challenges they face in the workplace. The network not only raises awareness but also actively contributes to shaping policies and initiatives that promote a positive disability culture. The network achieved the following in the past year:

  • Running ten events and several webinars during national and local inclusion events for example to raise awareness of our work and significantly grow our membership size and profile.
  • Contributed and supported the launch of the Workplace Reasonable Adjustment Plan and Policy which were important milestones in the EDI Roadmap
  • Offered Network members the opportunity to undertake the Calibre Programme – a development programme ran by NHSE.

King’s and Queers network, with 902 members, has embraced diversity within the LGBTQ+ community. The network provides support, advice, education and training and advocates for staff and patients to make King’s an inclusive, safe space so that people can excel whilst being their whole selves.

The Chair said: “In this past year we have focussed on improving things for our Trans+ staff and patients and about educating the wider Trust about the needs of these communities. Last Autumn we launched our Supporting Trans and Non-Binary Patient Guidance and our Supporting Trans and Non-binary staff policy. These were key steps in our journey to establish a more inclusive culture.”

Over the past year, the network achieved the following:

  • Ran 14 events including around key dates such as LGBT+ History Month and Pride Month across different King’s sites.
  • Contributed to and led the launch on the Trust’s new ‘Supporting Trans and Non-Binary Patient Guidance’.
  • Reached 1,000 Rainbow Badge pledges, an initiative organised by the network.

Our staff networks are catalysts for change – driving forward a culture of acceptance, respect and empowerment within the workforce community across SEL ICS. They are an essential part of what our organisations do for our underrepresented groups and their dedication not only enriches the experiences of staff but also enhances the quality of care we provide to our patients and population in south east London. A huge thank you to all our networks for the outstanding work you do!