Black History Month: How history informs our systematic approach to tackling health inequalities in north east London

Our Chair Marie Gabriel, CBE, talks about Black History Month and her passion and commitment to reducing inequalities in health and care. 

What does Black History Month mean to you?

“I am old enough to remember when Black History Month was first established, it may seem ordinary now, but at the time it was huge, a real step forward in ensuring our history was reclaimed by us and recognised by wider society. There was a real focus on acknowledgement and honouring our contribution, which had been ignored or purposefully hidden. I believe as a month it has gone a long way to ensuring a much deeper understanding and has also enabled deeper roots for individuals and communities, because without a sense of your history how do you know who you are and where you need to go.

“This sense of history informing the future means, that how we view Black History Month has changed over time. It is right that we now expect that Black history, and its contribution is recognised every day, but it is also right that we recognise that history is being created now, and so we need to be thoughtful about how future generations will view our current actions, or indeed inaction. I do think it is still critical to have a designated month though, a time to stop and reflect and to celebrate. The celebration is so important, to have real joy and pride in all that we accomplish, every day, against some huge odds. 

What changes are you passionate about seeing for Black people in health and care in particular?

“That is a really difficult question as there is so much to improve on across access, experience and outcomes, and for both the communities we serve and the staff we employ. So, I think the change I am most passionate about begins with an understanding of, a commitment to, and clear plan of action to progress towards true equity.

“For true equity, you need an understanding of history.”

How history has led to structural inequality and discrimination so that you can identify and counteract how the history of the Black people is completely tied into the success of public service so that we can recognise and reward that contribution with fairness and justice and how history demands that we do better now. I am therefore passionate about a systemic approach that recognises how we must undertake action across the four aims of the integrated care system, in population health, in tackling health inequalities, in ensuring productivity, and in tackling wider determinants. And to take this action alongside our partners including our local communities. This is one of the reasons why I am so looking forward to our health and care System Wide Anti-Racist Workshop on 31 October, where we can take stock of how far we have come and what more we must do to serve and lead all of our people all of the time.”

Who has inspired you from history, and more recent history?

“Another question that challenges me as there as so many. I find that I am inspired so regularly by people who do amazing things as part of their every day. Recognising women, is the theme of Black History Month this year and so just thinking about that, I am inspired by one of my close friends who has made it her life’s work to support young women in care, I am inspired by the women I learnt so much from when growing up, I am inspired by colleagues who have and continue to support other Black women to succeed, I am inspired by those women who set up community responses to the challenges we face and I am inspired by women throughout history who have spoken out when it is difficult to do so, particularly those whose stories are not known…” 

Do you have any artists, musicians, writers or poets you’d recommend to help people expand their understanding of Black history?

“Keeping within this year’s theme I will focus on Black British women writers, and would recommend, Reni Eddo-Lodge, Zadie Smith, Bernardine Evaristo, Irenosen Okoje, Andrea Levy, Patience Agbabi, and a sister to read with your daughters, Malorie Blackman.”

Marie Gabriel CBE, is one of the leading NHS figures in London. She is chair of NHS North East London and North East London Health and Care Partnership, and is also the first chair of the NHS Race and Health Observatory as well as chair of NHS North East London, co-chair of the London People Board and a member of the Mayor of London’s Health Board.

Find out more about what we’re doing to tackle health inequality in north east London.

Help us shape end of life and palliative care across north east London

Care and support for people at the end of life needs to be delivered with compassion and care.

We are inviting those with experience of end of life or palliative care to give their views. This may be from their own personal experience, their experiences caring for a family member, or from a bereavement in the last year. This may include children, young people, as well as adults.

The aim is to further understand the things that help and the things that don’t, so that we can make services more sensitive to people’s differing needs, cultures and circumstances.

We appreciate that this may be a very difficult time but this input will help us put the right support in place.

Please complete our online survey which is open to anyone living in Barking and Dagenham, Havering, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets, Newham, Waltham Forest, City of London and Hackney.

The online survey will close on 9 October. Paper based surveys are also available from the main libraries and Age UK offices in north east London.

Your views will be analysed anonymously. If you have any questions or you need the survey in a different format please email or call us on 020 8221 5500.

Proposed changes to ophthalmology surgery in North Central London

The NHS in North Central London (NCL) has developed proposals which will allow an estimated additional 3,000 eye (ophthalmology) surgery procedures to take place a year and reduce waits for sight saving surgery for some patients by up to four weeks.

You can read about the proposals on NCL’s website or download a short information leaflet.

Patients, the public, and partners are invited to share their views on the proposed changes and to feedback on how the NHS can provide the best possible experience for all patients, if implemented. This includes residents of North Central London and neighbouring areas who may choose to use hospital services in NCL. 

The NHS would particularly like to hear from anyone who has current or recent experience of eye surgery services, or anyone who may need these services in future, and their families and carers

Ways to feedback include:

The opportunity to give feedback runs until 16 October 2023.

New health and care centre taking shape in Ilford

A brand-new health and care centre is taking shape in the heart of Ilford.

Work started in January on the new centre – earmarked for two floors in Ilford Exchange shopping complex – and last week local NHS leaders were given a tour of the site, where construction teams are currently fitting out the clinical rooms, waiting area and reception.

Designed to act as a ‘one stop shop’ providing easy access to a range of healthcare, social care and community services in a single central location, the Ilford Exchange Health Centre will create extra capacity for GP services to meet growing local demand.

It will also offer blood testing and podiatry services, care for people with long term conditions, mental health support, children’s services and adult social care.

During a site visit, Zina Etheridge, Chief Executive Officer at NHS North East London (NHS NEL), and Matthew Trainer, Chief Executive at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, were among NHS leaders updated on the project’s progress.

Also among the group was, Tracy Rubery, Director of Partnership, Impact and Delivery: Redbridge at NHS North East London, who said: “It was great to see that this fantastic new centre is now taking shape after months of planning and consultation with local people.

“Providing a range of health and care services in one place, right in the heart of the community, will make an enormous difference to so many people’s lives both now and in the future. It will be a huge asset to people in Ilford and the surrounding area.”

Last year, nearly 1,000 people took part in a public consultation on the centre with the vast majority backing the plans. The feedback received has been carefully considered by NHS North East London, NELFT NHS Foundation Trust and the London Borough of Redbridge, in close collaboration with other organisations which are all working together as part of the Redbridge Place-Based Partnership to ensure the new centre meets local needs.

Following a public vote in July, people in Redbridge chose Ilford Exchange Health Centre as their preferred name for the new centre from a shortlist of seven. Over the coming weeks, construction teams will continue to progress the works and the centre is expected to open in spring 2024.

North east London launches a new website to help patients manage their health and wellbeing

Patients in north east London will benefit from a new website that provides useful information and links to local and national resources to help them manage their own health and wellbeing. 

The new ‘Wait well, Stay well.’ website is designed to provide useful information and links to local and national resources to help people manage their own health and wellbeing while they wait for hospital treatment

Andrew Lappin, deputy head of elective recovery at NHS north east London said: “We recognised that the Covid-19 pandemic meant that some operations were postponed or delayed and waiting times increased.   While everyone in north east London and the wider NHS is working hard to reduce the backlog, we also wanted to think about other ways to support patients. 

“We have worked with colleagues across north east London and developed a new website aimed at people waiting for hospital treatment and includes local information to support them while they are waiting.”

The new website provides:

  • Answers to questions patients might have about their treatment
  • Guidance on current waiting times at local hospitals
  • Advice for staying well mentally and physically while people wait for an appointment
  • Help to prepare for the procedure itself
  • Links to other local and national resources

Morag Harvey, deputy director of planned care said: ‘This is an important resource for patients and residents and a good example of collaboration between NHS north east London and our  Trust partners.  We will continue to work together to ensure the information remains up to date and new resources are added.”

Please access the ‘Wait well, Stay well’ website for further information.