Black History Month banner

Black History Month is a nationwide celebration of Black History, Arts and Culture throughout the UK. In the NHS, 6.1 per cent of staff identify as being of black ethnicity. Black History Month has been recognised for many years with a month-long programme of inspirational events and workshops – honouring the achievements, culture, and rich history of black people.

This year, the restrictions placed by the impact of COVID-19 has meant many organisations will not be holding face-to-face events, but instead will be finding more innovative ways to mark the occasion with virtual meet-ups and online events.

The Partnership will be raising awareness of key individuals who have had an impact on health and social care in the UK and will be hosting a webinar for staff later in the month. Details will be released shortly, but in the meantime, please visit and our social media channels to find out more.

Key facts, figures and information about the NHS workforce

  • 6.1 per cent of staff in the NHS identify as being from a black background
  • 4.6 per cent of the medical workforce and 6.3 per cent of the non-medical workforce in the NHS are from a black background
  • 1.2 per cent of very senior managers working in the NHS are black
  • 3.5 per cent of senior managers (bands 8a-9) and 6.7 per cent (bands 5-7) identify as black
  • 3.5 per cent of senior doctors, 6.2 per cent of junior doctors and 2.06 per cent of other doctors are from black backgrounds

* Figures taken from the NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard Report 2019

What we’ve been doing to celebrate Black History Month

  • We’ve been raising awareness of Black History Month throughout our organisations, including via our newsletters, special staff briefings and other meetings and events
  • The Surrey Heartlands Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority (BAME) Network hosted a special Black History Month celebration for staff and partners on 29th October, with keynote speakers Patrick Vernon OBE, British commentator and activist and Professor Dame Elizabeth Anionwu, Emeritus Professor of Nursing at the University of West London (see below for more information on both speakers).  A recording of the event can be found here
  • Promoting a number of staff blogs – View the latest blogs here.
  • Starting conversations about Black History Month through our social media channels, encouraging people from across the ICS to get involved – including a series of short videos from Rita Ofori-Danso, Chair of the Surrey Heartlands CCG BAME Forum which you can see here and here  

A bit more about our Surrey Heartlands ICS Black History Month Event keynote speakers:

Patrick Vernon OBE

Patrick Vernon OBE is social commentator, campaigner and cultural historian. He has over twenty years’ senior experience working across mental health, public health, heritage and race equality and is well known in health, local government and the voluntary sector.  In 2018 he kick started the campaign for an amnesty for the Windrush Generation. Patrick is currently Associate Director for Connected Communities at the Centre for Ageing Better, Equality and Diversity Adviser to Lambeth Council, Chair of Citizens Partnership for Healthcare Investigation Branch (HSIB) and Senior Associate at OLMEC. Patrick is a Patron of ACCI a long established black mental health charity in Wolverhampton and Patron of Santé a social enterprise in Camden which supports and befriends refugees and asylum seekers across London. Patrick is Vice Chair of the Bernie Grant Trust and a board member of 38 Degrees.  He received and OBE in 2012 for his work in race equality and health. He was award an honorary PhD by Wolverhampton University in 2018 for his campaigning and writing on culture, history and migration. In 2019 Patrick received the SMK Lifetime Achievement Award for campaigning. In 2020 Patrick was featured in September’s edition of British Vogue as one of  top 20 activist and campaigners.

Professor Dame Elizabeth Nneka Anionwu, DBE CBE FRCN FQNI PhD

Professor Dame Elizabeth Nneka Anionwu is an Emeritus Professor of Nursing at the University of West London.  In 1979 she set up the first ever UK sickle cell/thalassaemia nurse counselling service, based in Brent.  Elizabeth then became a senior lecturer in Community Genetic Counselling at the University College London’s Institute of Child Health.  Prior to retirement in 2007, she was Dean of the School of Adult Nursing Studies & Professor of Nursing at University of West London (UWL), before establishing the Mary Seacole Centre for Nursing Practice, also at UWL.  Elizabeth is co-author with Professor Karl Atkin (University of York) of The Politics of Sickle Cell & Thalassaemia (2001) published by Open University Press & author of A Short History of Mary Seacole: a resource for nurse & students (2005), RCN Publishing.  Her highly acclaimed memoirs ‘Mixed Blessings from a Cambridge Union were published in September 2016 & are available on Amazon as a paperback & e-book. 126/130 (97%) reviews rate the book as 5-star.

She was Vice-Chairperson of the successful Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal – the statue was unveiled in June 2016 – and is now a Life Patron of the Mary Seacole Trust.  Elizabeth is also a Patron of the Sickle Cell Society and the Nigerian Nurses Charitable Association UK and is Vice-President of Unite/Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association (CPHVA).  In 2018, as part of the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the National Health Service, Elizabeth was listed as one of the top 70 influential nurses and midwives between 1948 and 2018:

Awards include:

  • Honorary Doctorate Awards from St Andrews University; Brunel University; Birmingham City University; University of Manchester.
  • Becoming a Dame in 2017 when awarded a DBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours for services to nursing and the Mary Seacole Statue Appeal.
  • CBE in 2001 for services to nursing.
  • Fellowship of the Queen’s Nursing Institute (FQNI) in 2017.
  • Fellowship of the Royal College of Nursing (FRCN) in 2004. 
  • Inducted into the Nursing Times Nursing Hall of Fame in 2010 for services to the Development of Nurse-led Services. 
  • UK Chief Nursing Officers’ Lifetime Achievement Award at the Nursing Times Awards ceremony on 26th October 2016.
  • British Journal of Nursing Lifetime Achievement Award 2018
  • Pride of Britain 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award

Website:      Twitter: @EAnionwu    

Further information 

  • The official Black History Month UK listing – this website provides information on an extensive range of events taking place across the UK to entertain, inform and inspire.
  • NHS Confederation BME Leadership Network – this network was set up to work on the diversity and inclusion agenda to improve the representation of BME staff and raise their profile.
  • Resources to tackle racism and discrimination – NHS Employers has collated a range of useful resources which can be used to help aid conversations and to implement change.
  • Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) – since 2015 all NHS organisations have been required to demonstrate how they are addressing race equality issues in a range of staffing areas through the WRES.
  • NEAS leaders pledge to act against racism by the book – senior managers across the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) have pledged to raise the profile of race equality in the service and started by launching a book club with around two dozen titles on race and racism.
  • Campaign honours BAME contribution on NHS Birthday – the Florence Nightingale Foundation (FNF) has released a special collage of BAME nurses and midwives working on the frontline during COVID-19 to mark the 72nd birthday of the NHS..
  • NHS Chief Executive pays tribute to essential contribution of Windrush generation – the head of the NHS in England Sir Simon Stevens marked Windrush Day 2020 by committing the NHS to drive further improvements in race equality across the health service.
  • Black nurses and midwives instrumental in helping shape the NHS of today – the Chief Nursing Officer for England has previously shared the amazing achievements and notable milestones of black nurses and midwives over the past 70 years.
  • Time to speak up: some necessary words about racism – Tracie Jolliff, national head of inclusive leadership and system development at NHS England and NHS Improvement provides an overview of the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement and what this means for the NHS.