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Use it, don’t lose it

Graham Clews hears about moves to encourage career progression for BME staff in the NHS

Physiotherapists from non-British cultures should embrace their background and use their cultural identity to help them achieve success within the NHS.

That’s the view of a senior physiotherapist who has undertaken the NHS’s own programme designed to help NHS staff from black and minority ethnic groups to move into management in the health service. He is now setting up his own programme for staff in his trust.

Kiran Katikaneni, a senior physiotherapist at St Richard’s hospital in Chichester, says the Breaking Through programme taught him and his fellow students to treat cultural differences as an asset, instead of trying too hard to fit into the existing culture and losing the ‘spark’ that might help them to rise to senior positions.

 ‘Staff from different cultures should treat it as a positive, and look at their strengths, not their weaknesses,’ he says. ‘Adapt your culture and ways of working to local ways, but do not bin it completely.’

Staff from some cultures are more used to using first names, or being literally ‘hands on’, he says, and as long as it is appropriate, they should not hide this behaviour but seek to benefit from it.

Room at the top

The Breaking Through programme was launched in 2003, and is now run by the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement.

According to the institute, there are around 193,000 staff from BME backgrounds in the NHS, and the most recent figures show that only around 1.62 per cent work at executive director level or higher.

Kiran, who is originally from south India, is now producing a shorter version of Breaking Through that he will run for BME staff working at Agenda for Change bands 5, 6 and 7 at his own trust, Western Sussex Hospitals. When he joined his physio department three years ago, he was the first overseas person working there. Now there are three senior physios from abroad, and colleagues are becoming more open to different working styles, he says. ‘I see a lot of talent among BME staff, but they often lack the confidence to aim for more senior positions’, he adds. fl

Further information

The CSP’s equality and diverstiy toolkit can be viewed at www.csp.org.uk

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