Mary Seacole Awards: an evaluation of the impact of the Awards 2012

Clark, Elisabeth and Rogers, Jill (2012). Mary Seacole Awards: an evaluation of the impact of the Awards 2012. NHS Employers, Leeds.


Executive summary:

The prestigious Mary Seacole Awards aim to develop senior nurses, midwives and health visitors as future leaders with the enhanced leadership skills necessary to tackle health inequalities in black and minority ethnic (BME) communities. The primary purpose of the current evaluation, which was completed between May and August 2012, was to examine the impact that Mary Seacole Award holders’ projects have had on their personal and professional development, service design and delivery, and on patient/service user care. Building on the two previous evaluations in 2000 and 2010, it explored the ‘added value’ and impact that the Awards have had in order to gather evidence to support the continued funding of the Awards.

The evaluation was undertaken in four stages and included both quantitative and qualitative elements.

Stage 1: an online questionnaire was used to gather core data from as many of Mary Seacole Award holders as possible. Information was gathered on what each individual’s project has achieved, where they are now professionally and the support they received.

Stage 2: The data from the online questionnaire were used to select and invite Award holders to take part in an in-depth interview. This explored in more detail impact on policy and on service design and delivery, influence on others, benefits for the BME community and suggestions for ways to support future Award winners to maximise the benefits of the experience.

Stage 3: Managers of the 2010 cohort of Award holders were invited for interview which focused on the Award holder manager’s perceptions of the key benefits of the Award, the impact of the Award holder’s work on practice, policy and personal/professional development, and any plans to develop the work further.

Stage 4: Members of the Mary Seacole Award Steering Group were invited to complete an online questionnaire to obtain their views of Award holder’s achievements and the future of the Awards.

Summary of the main findings
In this evaluation we obtained rich data from 22 Award holders (59% of the total population who completed their Awards during the past 18 years) and found a high level of consensus between the views of Award holders and Mary Seacole Award Steering Group members in relation to the key achievements of the Awards. The evaluation also demonstrates robust consistency with the findings of the two previous reviews of the Awards, thereby presenting a view over nearly two decades of their success in developing effective and courageous leaders who have had a positive impact on reducing health inequalities.

Improving health outcomes for people from BME communities This evaluation demonstrates that Award holders have made a difference in many practical and tangible ways and that the impact of Award holders’ work has been felt beyond healthcare for minority communities, as many of the issues addressed are relevant for the wider communities served by today’s NHS.

Reducing health inequalities
The evidence from this evaluation demonstrates that the accumulated work of the Award holders has had a direct impact on people’s health, thereby contributing to the reduction of health inequalities among hard-to-reach groups who are often marginalised and neglected. The body of work resulting from the Awards has significantly raised the profile of health inequalities and of the healthcare needs of BME communities.

Leadership skills
The Awards have enabled individuals to develop core skills of leadership: networking, influencing and communication. There has been transformational change on a personal scale as individuals have had access to role models for the first time and have then been able to achieve and sustain their own potential as leaders. Many have been appointed to senior posts and have become significant leaders in healthcare practice and education.

Sustainability of positive changes
The Mary Seacole Awards have been notable in that many improvements have become integrated into service redesign and thereby sustained beyond the time of the Award holder’s project. This has been achieved by disseminating the findings, training staff in new ways of working, mentoring staff, ensuring that other staff learn from the findings of the Award holders’ work and that different ways of working are integrated into practice.

Impact on policy
Many instances were reported where Award holders’ work has resulted in changes to local, national and international policy. Issues highlighted by Award holders are often those that are not recognised and addressed in other arenas and are therefore unlikely to have been the subject of policy changes through any other route: their work is therefore of vital importance to our modern NHS.

User involvement in policy and services
There are numerous examples from the evaluation of instances where service users and carers from hard-to-reach BME groups, whose needs were marginalised and unrecognised, have developed confidence and awareness through their involvement in Award holders’ projects.

Developing the evidence base
It is vital to develop a robust evidence base from which to further advance practice and the evidence base relating to issues affecting BME communities must be strengthened so that effective ways of working can be embedded in wider policy and practice. Award holders have disseminated their findings and the impact of their work in their final reports, published articles in peer-reviewed journals and through presenting at conferences.

Personal and professional development
The structure of the Mary Seacole Awards supports Award holders in numerous practical ways and many individuals reported that they had been enabled to develop a range of key skills such as project management and presentation skills. Individuals have also developed greater self-confidence, strategic thinking skills, networking skills and, most importantly, a belief in their own ability that continues to sustain them in their careers.

The nine recommendations below are made in the belief that the firm foundations and achievements of the past 18 years can be built on to develop even more effective leaders
for the NHS and to meet the needs of, and improve health outcomes for, the diverse communities in Britain today.
1. Based on the unequivocal evidence that the Mary Seacole Awards enhance career opportunities for professionals from BME communities at a time when they are underrepresented
in leadership and management positions, the Awards should continue in their present form and with the present funding levels maintained or even enhanced, given the strategic importance of the awards.
2. The current system of support for Award holders, namely mentors and academic supervisors, should be strengthened and co-ordinated to provide individuals with personal and professional advice during this life-changing year.
3. The vital, supportive role played by Award holders’ colleagues and managers should be reinforced and acknowledged by involving these individuals more actively in the process. Award holders’ managers could, for example, be invited to events organised by the Steering Group to recognise their commitment.
4. Award holders are powerful and influential individuals and their impact should be enhanced further by bringing them together regularly after the completion of their projects. A Mary Seacole alumni group would have even greater influence than individuals alone and would create a critical mass of healthcare professionals to further the goals of the Mary Seacole Awards.
5. The findings of the Award holders’ work should be more widely disseminated so that they can have even greater impact on policy and practice than at present. Consideration should be given to a series of ‘Highlights’ focusing on policy changes achieved and practical implications from Award holders’ work to be published regularly by the Mary Seacole Award Steering Group and disseminated widely throughout the
NHS and wider health and social care sectors.
6. The outcomes and practical implications for service development and improvements in patient experience demonstrated by the impact of the Award holders’ work is often evident beyond BME communities. The implications of the work for the wider communities served by the NHS should be highlighted and publicised more extensively.
7. There is great strength in the fact that the Awards are supported by the key organisations in nursing, midwifery and health visiting: Department of Health, NHS Employers, Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Midwives, UNISON and Unite CPHVA. This support should continue.
8. Consideration should be given to the suggestion that each year, applications be invited to address aspects of a theme of key strategic importance to the NHS and to the important agenda of ensuring equity of healthcare for all communities.
9. The Awards should be widely advertised and promoted by the Steering Group and through previous Award holders to ensure that individuals with the potential to be effective leaders have the opportunity to apply and become part of the growing body of influencers to improve health outcomes and challenge health inequalities in modern Britain.

In summary, the Mary Seacole Awards are a fitting, dynamic and contemporary legacy for a remarkable pioneer and leader. Through the Awards, the impact of Mary Seacole’s vision and courage continue to be experienced by some of the most marginalised groups and communities in modern Britain today. Without these Awards, many of the unmet health needs would continue to go unrecognised. Their important contribution should be sustained and strengthened so that health inequalities continue to be addressed within the NHS.

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