Newham-based NHS trust has UK’s first female and ethnic minority top team

East London Foundation Trust CEO Dr Navina Evans and chair Marie Gabriel form the top leadership tea

East London Foundation Trust CEO Dr Navina Evans and chair Marie Gabriel form the top leadership team - Credit: ELFT

An NHS trust claims to be the first in the country to have a female and ethnic minority top leadership team in place.

Dr Navina Evans, the newly-appointed chief executive of East London Foundation Trust (ELFT), is originally from Malaysia while chair Marie Gabriel is mixed race with a black father and white mother.

Just two trusts in the UK, including ELFT, have ethnic minority chief executives despite 22 per cent of NHS staff being from a black, Asian and minority ethnic background (BAME).

Navina, who joined the trust last month, said the move was “important” to show ELFT’s 50pc BAME staff that they could “get to the highest levels” in order to combat “unconditional bias”.

Marie, 55, added: “There is a direct relationship between how an organisation treats its minority staff and its quality of care.

“If members of staff are more likely to be stressed and feel they are not as likely to progress in their careers, this will impact on the quality of care.”

The pair head up a NHS board of 15 executive and non-executive directors, six of whom are women and five of whom come from BAME backgrounds.

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Navina, 54, stressed the importance of role models for the Newham community and “understanding” the issues faced by its multi-cultural residents.

“When it comes to mental health, cultural differences do affect how we manage our health and interaction with our services,” she said.

“When I got this job as chief executive, I appreciated it was a big deal being a BAME woman in the role.

“What I did not realise is how much positivity it would bring on social media, not just in Newham but around the country.”

She added: “The NHS is in a bit of a crisis. It feels to me like we are missing a trick.

“There are so many skills that we should be really drawing in on that.”

For Marie, it is also about showing people that she is a “Canning Town girl done good”.

“It is about being a women, being working class and saying to others ‘you can develop’,” she said.

The Honorary Freedom of the Borough holder, who was discouraged from applying to university, said the trust regularly informs NewVIc students about NHS career opportunities.