Black History Month is held each year in October. It is a national celebration aiming to promote and celebrate the contributions of Black communities to society and to foster a better understanding of Black history in general. It provides an opportunity to celebrate the here and now and to look forward to future possibilities.
A career in medicine was not my first wish in early life, what I really dreamed of being was a long-distance runner. As a young man I wanted to emulate the Ethiopian runner Haile Gebreselassie, he was fast and seemed to move effortlessly over the ground, recording numerous world records over his career, what struck me most was his beaming smile and every time I saw him interviewed, he would always reply the same “I am very happy”. Almost a year ago to the day on the 12 October 2019, Eliud Kipchoge from Kenya ran a marathon distance in 1 hour 59 minutes and 40 seconds becoming the first man to break what was thought to be an impossible 2 hours landmark. His phrase “No human is limited” is surely an inspiration to us all.
Britain’s black community has been influential over the years, socially, culturally, economically and politically. Black History Month allows us time to reflect on this and to celebrate the achievements of so many individuals.
Staff from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background have played an important role in the creation and history of the NHS and so we must continue to support and develop them in our health system, both locally here in Doncaster and on a national level. Their contribution is an integral part of the NHS and we have seen the sacrifice that people of all races have made during the pandemic.
The diversity of staff working in the NHS in Doncaster is a great asset and something which makes our NHS strong. I want to thank all our BAME staff, past, present and future for their dedication and contribution to improving the health and wellbeing of our local community.
The NHS supports diversity and inclusion and is against all forms of discrimination. We have celebrated Black History Month widely for many years within the NHS, honouring the achievements as well as the culture and history of Black people.
NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is keen to support this celebration and welcomes the opportunity to shine a light on the diversity of our workforce. We commission services to meet the needs of all our communities and we are also supporting Black staff and patients throughout the current coronavirus pandemic, by working with our partners to promote better communications and engagement for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities, and also as a member of the Minorities Partnership Board. The CCG is currently helping to facilitate a BAME Network for CCG staff across South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw and is looking at how we can support our BAME staff in primary care.
I listened to one particularly interesting story as I was listening to the radio the other day. Many of us have heard of Florence Nightingale but have you heard the story of Mary Seacole? Born in Jamaica in 1805, Mary learned about medicine initially from her mother and later as she travelled through the Caribbean, Central America and Britain. She was widely praised for her work in treating cholera. In 1854, she travelled to the Crimea and nursed wounded soldiers fighting in the Crimean War. She was often on the front line and frequently under fire yet she continued in her personal mission to care for the soldiers. She provided leadership, passion and drive and I find her story and dedication a real inspiration.
This national celebration aims to promote and celebrate Black contributions to British society, and to foster a better understanding of Black history in general.
If you want to learn more about Black History Month, take a look at the website where there is a programme of online events and resources to promote the history and contribution of African and Caribbean communities in the UK.