Demonstrating active allyship through planning and delivery during winter resilience period

16/11/2023 - Demonstrating active allyship through planning and delivery during winter resilience period

Caroline Lamb is NHS Scotland Chief Executive and Director General for Health and Social Care

Winter is always a challenging time of year for our health and social care staff and leaders at all levels in these sectors. As Chief Executive of Scotland’s NHS and Director General of Health and Social Care in the Scottish Government, it is crucial that the core values of the Leading to Change Programme – kindness, compassion and collaboration – are demonstrated throughout our work and everything we do.

I acknowledge the work of each and every one of the 184,000 health workforce and over 160,000 social work and social care workforce* who work tirelessly each day to provide compassionate and high quality care to people across our diverse communities. It is down to their professionalism and dedication that people across Scotland receive the care and support that they require.

Our people are a diverse mix – both those providing and those receiving care. Acknowledging and celebrating this diversity is always important, but making sure this is not forgotten is vital during challenging times. Demonstrating active allyship – both collectively and as individuals – is paramount to ensuring our colleagues and the people who benefit from our care, especially those from minority backgrounds, can continue to enjoy experiencing meaningful equal opportunities to thrive in the workplace and have equal standards of care. This will also enable services to attract and retain staff in greater numbers, while driving up satisfaction rates amongst those receiving care.   

By developing and delivering upon meaningful diversity and inclusion objectives, we can ensure that all our colleagues and people who receive care from us have their diverse backgrounds recognised and needs met. My own personal diversity and inclusion objective has been to take part in a mutual mentoring partnership for colleagues who identify as minority ethnic and those who identify as disabled. This experience has allowed me to offer practical career development advice and support while enabling me to deepen my understanding of what life and work can be like for colleagues from a background different to mine. This is an intersectional approach and active allyship in practice in action.

Through my current leadership role, I also provide oversight and assurance for the work of health boards across Scotland. I have asked every Board Chair to work with their Chief Executives and teams to develop an anti-racism action plan. This is another opportunity for active allyship to be demonstrated in practice.

In Government and across the health and social care landscape, we know the immense pressures systems face and just how busy working life can get for the people in all of these sectors. Our response has always been to demonstrate compassion.   

For example, compassion when planning the changes people need us to deliver to improve services. Compassion when looking after our own wellbeing and that of our colleagues and teams, including appreciating the diverse make up and needs of those we work alongside. Compassion when caring for the people we serve – again who may belong to diverse communities with diverse needs.

This is why the Scottish Government has collaborated with employers across health, social care and social work sectors to establish clear and tested processes to inform ways of working so that services and people are not overloaded at what is already a challenging time.  

Collaboration across organisations and sectors is vital for improving care, and we must ensure that we embed the practice of active allyship in our practice and our behaviours. There may be tasks and actions we must or can delay now due to work pressures but we should never prescribe to ‘a one size fits all blanket’ approach. Instead, we have to assess each task and action upon its merit, its required urgency and impact on people and services. This will enable us to prioritise and plan better and in doing so also ensure diversity and inclusion remains at the centre of all our service planning and delivery. This is active allyship in practice once more and I would encourage everyone to decide how you can be a better ally in the work you do.    

*Figures from Scottish Social Service Sector: Report on 2022 Workforce Data (published September 2023)

Reflective Challenge – How can you demonstrate active allyship in support of colleagues from diverse backgrounds providing care and people receiving care from diverse backgrounds?  

We’d like to thank Caroline for writing this guest blog which is part of the Leading to Change Diversity Blog Series. We want to highlight and promote the voices and experiences of diverse leaders at all levels including those working at frontline / grassroots levels. We aim to celebrate diverse leaders who can act as role models for other aspiring, diverse leaders.

Caroline Lamb

Caroline Lamb

NHS Scotland Chief Executive and Director General for Health and Social Care

Caroline moved into the Scottish Government in December 2019 to lead the Digital Health and Care Directorate. Advancing the use of digital technologies to support our health and care services remains one of her main priorities. Prior to this role, she had worked for the NHS and was appointed as Chief Executive of NHS Education for Scotland in 2015.

From March 2020, Caroline was asked to take on other roles, including:

• leading on the COVID-19 related ICU surge requirements
• acting as Portfolio Director for Test and Protect from May 2020
• becoming Delivery Director for the Extended Seasonal Flu and COVID-19 vaccination programmes from August 2020

Caroline trained as a Chartered Accountant in London. After qualifying she moved to Scotland, working first in housing and then in education.

All information regarding our contributors was correct at the time of publishing.

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