HSJ: The 50 most influential BAME people in health

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The BAME50 lists the black, Asian and minority ethnic figures who will exercise the most power and/or influence in the English NHS and health policy over the next 12 months

Sponsored by

NHS England and NHS Improvement 1

The top 50 list is presented in alphabetical order by surname


Dr Kamran Abbasi, executive editor for content, BMJ

Dr Abbasi, who studied medicine at Leeds University, spent five years working in hospital medicine before moving into medical journalism. He is currently the executive editor for content at the BMJ, where he has developed the international editions and pioneered themed issues.

Dr Abbasi has written extensively on key issues around covid, including the lack of personal protective equipment for frontline staff and the UK’s preparedness for the pandemic.

He is a former acting editor and deputy editor at the BMJ and edits the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. He founded BMJ Learning, an online resource, has acted as a consultant for the World Health Organisation, and is an honorary visiting professor at Imperial College’s department of primary care and public health.

Lord Victor Adebowale, chair, NHS Confederation

Lord Adebowale’s appointment as chair of the NHS Confederation this year crowned a long history of involvement in healthcare, especially mental health. Both his parents worked in the NHS and much of his early career was spent in housing associations.

In 2001 he joined Turning Point as chief executive. Turning Point both campaigns on behalf of those with social care needs and provides services to those with drug and alcohol misuse issues, mental health problems and learning disabilities. He has sat on taskforces advising governments on mental health, learning disability and the role of the voluntary sector, as well as broader issues such as housing.

Lord Adebowale was one of the first people’s peers, sitting as a cross-bencher. He is a visiting professor and chancellor at Lincoln University, and a former non-executive director of NHS England.

Dr Shahed Ahmad, national clinical director for cardiovascular disease, NHS England and Improvement

Dr Ahmad has played an influential role in the development of CVD prevention policies and has a longstanding interest in public health issues, as well as leadership development.

With the need for prevention and early intervention in the NHS’s long-term plan, his role is likely to grow in importance and chimes with Sir Simon Stevens’ own interests in improving health to reduce the burden on the NHS.

He is also medical director for NHS England south central where he is the accountable officer for over 3,000 GPs. He has been involved in primary care management since 2002, when he first took on a director role in a primary care trust.

He used evidence-based programmes to reduce mortality and improve life expectancy in two deprived areas of London and led for London on the rollout of vascular risk assessment. He is also on the expert scientific and clinical advisory panel for the NHS Healthcheck.

Nadra Ahmed, chair, the National Care Association

The fate of the NHS is bound up with what happens in social care: Ms Ahmed has been involved in social care for more than 35 years and has been an effective voice for the sector, especially around the immigration proposals which could restrict the flow of overseas workers into care homes.

Ms Ahmed, who used to be the registered manager of two homes for older people, was the vice chair of Skills for Care for 11 years and was awarded an OBE for her services to social care. She is now co-convenor of the Cavendish Coalition, which brings together health and social care organisations on workforce issues, providing a shared voice to influence and lobby national policy.

It sees a domestic and international pipeline of professionals and trainees in both health and social care as crucial to providing high quality services. She has been vocal for the sector and is passionate about levelling up the care workforce – an issue which has been prominent during covid.

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, shadow health minister and hospital doctor

Tooting MP Dr Allin-Khan is shadow minister for mental health and came second in this year’s Labour deputy leadership campaign. She has worked 12 hour shifts in A&E during the covid crisis, which has given her interventions in Parliament an added nuance and authenticity.

She has called for more mental health support for NHS staff during the pandemic, emphasising the pressures put on them by the workload, a lack of PPE and the emotional stress of seeing so many patients die. She has also been critical of the late lockdown and slow build-up of testing in the UK – causing health and social care secretary Matt Hancock to criticise her “tone” in the House of Commons.

She has only been in Parliament four years – she was selected for Sadiq Khan’s seat when he was elected as London Mayor – and is still in her early 40s. With the NHS a key political battleground, she is likely to become more influential over time.

Siva Anandaciva, chief analyst, King’s Fund

The NHS needs big brains – and they don’t come much bigger than Mr Anandaciva’s. His work as chief analyst at the King’s Fund may sound dry but his calm manner and ability to explain complex matters in simple terms makes him an ideal media performer.

He is now regularly quoted in the nationals and appears on TV. He led a team looking at NHS finances, workforce and informatics at NHS Providers before he moved to the King’s Fund in 2017.

Before that, he worked as an analyst in the Department of Health, where he focused on medicines policy and urgent and emergency care. Mr Anandaciva has also been a governor at Homerton University Foundation Trust.

His analysis is always incisive and he has an ability to take the long view on key issues and to see the bigger picture of the NHS’s place in society.

Dame Elizabeth Anionwu, emeritus professor of nursing, University of West London

Dame Elizabeth may have retired in 2007 but her influence and involvement is as strong as ever. She is a life patron of the Mary Seacole Trust, and served as vice-chair of the Mary Seacole statue appeal.

Dame Elizabeth continues to be actively involved in nursing issues and is viewed as inspirational by many much younger nurses. She has had a distinguished career in nursing, with a focus on sickle cell anaemia and thalassemia, creating the first specialist centre and increasing awareness of it among healthcare professionals.

She set up the Mary Seacole Centre for nursing practice at the University of West London, where she is emeritus professor of nursing, and has written a memoir of her life, Mixed Blessings From a Cambridge Union, which describes how she was brought up partly in care and found her father – a Nigerian diplomat – in her 20s. She was made a dame in 2017.

Professor JS Bamrah, chair, BAPIO

Doctors of Indian origin have been crucial to the NHS for many years and now number over 50,000. BAPIO has given them both a voice and support – and Dr Bamrah has been at the heart of this.

He has been particularly active during the covid pandemic, recognising the particular risk it poses to BAME people and NHS staff, and is contributing to academic work on this. Dr Bamrah is a consultant psychiatrist in Manchester and an honorary reader at the University of Manchester.

He has also developed a metabolic health-related app. He is a past BMA and Royal College of Psychiatrists council member and a trustee of a number of charitable organisations.

He holds visiting professorships in India and has worked on a project linking the NHS and West Bengal which aims to transform mental health nursing care at key institutes in Kolkata. In 2018 he was awarded a CBE for services to mental health, diversity and the NHS.

Millie Banerjee, chair, NHS Blood and Transplant

Ms Banerjee has led NHS Blood and Transplant since 2017 and is also the independent chair of the NHS integrated care system in South West London.

She has spoken about the need to remove bias – both unconscious and otherwise – from NHS Blood and Transplant and to root out bullying and unacceptable behaviour, linking this to the need to attract diverse donors to meet the clinical demand and reduce inequalities.

She is a zoology graduate from University College London and spent much of her working life in the private sector, specialising in project management in companies such as BT, where she spent 25 years in senior roles, ending up as director of BT products and services.

She is an experienced non-executive director, with appointments as varied as the Cabinet Office, Channel 4, the Prisons Board, Ofcom and Barts Health. She was appointed a CBE in 2002 for her work supporting civil service reform.

Dr Sonji Clarke, consultant obstetrician, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust

Dr Clarke has been described as a role model for providing compassionate care and has inspired medical students from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as influencing many other obstetricians.

London-based Dr Clarke has an interest in high risk obstetrics including neurological diseases in pregnancy and pregnancies with complex social factors. She has contributed to careers programmes in secondary schools and helped provide PHSE materials for younger children and their parents.

She is deputy head at the London School of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, which provides training for postgraduate doctors, and is an honorary senior lecturer at King’s College London. She is concerned with the development of training strategy and improvement as well as the well-being of doctors in training within the specialty.

She is also an adviser to MedicalAidFilms, which uses innovative media to transform the health and wellbeing of women and children around the world.

Yvonne Coghill, former WRES director

Ms Coghill is a powerhouse who has possibly done more than anyone to raise the issue of racial inequalities in the NHS. As director of WRES since 2015, she oversaw the introduction of annual WRES reports and the use of common measures to allow trusts to see how they are doing on race equality.

This has ensured race disparity issues are on board agendas nationally. Ms Coghill trained as a nurse and went on to qualify in mental health nursing and health visiting, before moving into a management role.

She was private secretary to Sir Nigel Crisp while he was chief executive of the NHS. She is currently a vice president of the RCN and was made a CBE in 2018 for commitment to equality and diversity in the NHS.

Recently retired, she was previously working with the London region on a rapid programme of support for BAME staff in response to the covid outbreak.

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Source: HSJ

Date: 7 October 2020