Diversity and Inclusion awards for Imperial staff who pioneered innovative headwear

Staff at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust have won two diversity and inclusion awards and also been highly commended for a third honour.

Noni Nyathi, a ward manager at St Mary’s hospital, was awarded the European Diversity Awards Hero of the Year prize at a central London ceremony on 11 November. Noni pioneered innovative headwear for Black, Asian and minority ethnic colleagues, supporting them to wear PPE safely and leading to a permanent change in the Trust’s dress code and uniform. 

Launched in 2010, the European Diversity Awards is the continent’s most prestigious and widely-respected diversity event. Attended by leading lights from business, politics and the media, the awards recognise individuals and organisations whose outstanding leadership has made a genuine difference to the equality, diversity and inclusion agenda. 

Noni and the team behind the innovation; Winny Thomas, chair of the Nursing and Midwifery BAME Committee, Marcelle Tauber-Gilmore, lead nurse for clinical procurement and Louisa Campbell, senior category manager, procurement were also awarded in the Best Diversity and Inclusion Practice category at the Nursing Times Workforce Awards on 17 November and had already been highly commended earlier in October at the Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion’s Inclusivity Excellence Awards in the Driving Social Inclusion in the Workplace category. 

Commenting on the award wins, Noni said: “I hope the recognition this initiative has gained shows how important it is to listen and respond to the voices of our Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff and that we continue the excellent work we’re doing in the Trust on the race agenda.” 

During the first wave of the pandemic, staff with Afro-Caribbean hair were often over-washing their hair due to fears of transferring the Covid-19 virus and this caused hair damage. To protect her hair, Noni began wearing a hair cap on shift and other colleagues talked about their own challenges when caring for their hair. It became clear that this was a common but unspoken problem before and during the pandemic. 

Noni began working with networks across the Trust, procurement and senior nursing teams to find product solutions. Samples were tested with nursing colleagues on the ward and hair caps are now available to any staff who need them as part of the standard uniform policy. 

Longer term, this work has made the Trust think of other practical challenges faced by staff wearing uniforms. The Trust’s Strategic PPE group provided longer tie surgical face masks, mask holders and alternative isolation/sterile gown sizing. Specially design hijabs for Muslim staff are also now provided for staff. 

Director of Nursing Professor Janice Sigsworth said: "From ward to board, nurses and midwives at our Trust work together in partnership as part of one team and I’m very proud to see this innovative work has been recognised. Hearing and responding to the needs of our staff, especially during the unprecedented situation surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, is vital to help us deliver safe and high-quality care.”

The digital nursing team, led by James Bird, chief nurse information officer, was also shortlisted at the Nursing Times Workforce Awards in the category: Best Use of Technology to Improve the Working Environment. The team established remote patient monitoring pathways where patients can be monitored at home, to provide care outside the hospital.