A note from Hospice Chief Executive, Kate Heaps

In the last week, the news and media has been filled with the story of George Floyd, and many other black people before him who have suffered terrible violence at the hands of the authorities. These images and the response to them from people around the world who are calling for a society which treats people fairly regardless of the colour of their skin has been very much on my own mind; in the way that I live my life as well as the way that Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice responds.

Many will say that this an issue beyond the work of our Hospice, or that we can’t make a significant impact on such a societal issue. But I disagree, it is my view that we have both a responsibility to our whole community and an opportunity to do something much more to redress the injustices that exist that place black people at a disadvantage.

Our responsibilities to respond exist at many levels – as citizens, as colleagues, as an organisation and as a leader of end of life care in the health and care system. It would be also be wrong if we were to believe that our Hospice has not, in some ways or at some points, failed to act in a way that gives the same rights and opportunities to black people as to those that are white.

Over the last few months I have been discussing with colleagues in the management team and in our Board how we can be more proactive to ensure we are an organisation which truly values diversity and properly represents the community we serve. Not only do I want to ensure that we always give the best opportunities to grow and develop to staff and volunteers regardless of their background, I am also committed to ensuring that the Hospice actively works to ensure that the barriers which exist for local people to access hospice care are challenged and removed.

  • As we look forward and begin our planning for our recovery from COVID-19, we have already identified that we need to be more proactive to ensure that black staff and volunteers feel valued as key members of our team and are able to develop in their roles.
  • We know at a service level that people who are from minority ethnic backgrounds are often unable to access hospice care or to have the same outcomes as those who are white – an inequality already in our sights and which we have plans to redress through our community development project and our emerging recovery and transformation plan.
  • We’re establishing an Equality and Diversity Group who will lead our work in all of these areas and where necessary we will access additional expertise to support the work. This will include work to examine how we monitor and respond to diversity issues in our organisation, how we meet the Workplace Race Equality Standard (WRES) and work to assure us that our recruitment processes ensure that we give all applicants equal opportunity to join us or for existing staff to develop in their careers.

I will do my part in my personal life to peacefully and safely respond to black lives matter and I will encourage Hospice staff to do the same. It is only by challenging racism and listening to the experiences of oppression that we will begin to understand how our conscious and unconscious actions affect others.

I know personally and professionally the value of living alongside and working with people who are different to me, I live and work in an area with people from all corners of the world and from all sorts of different backgrounds and I believe we have a better society and Hospice as a result. There are many things I know that we can improve on at Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice in order that we can serve our diverse population and I want to listen to and engage with all of our patients and their families, our staff and volunteers and local people and community groups to help to develop our Hospice so that it reflects an even richer tapestry of differing viewpoints and experiences.

Hospices and palliative care services pride themselves on the expert provision of individualised care, as the founder of the modern Hospice movement, Dame Cecily Saunders said: ‘You matter because you are you’ our movement recognises that coming together with fellow humans at a time when they most need help is where most healing takes place. I hope you will join me in standing in solidarity with black people to address racism and make the world a better place.

Kate Heaps, Chief Executive, Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice


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