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A message to Londoners from our Chief Executive

These are unprecedented times: we’re fighting an invisible disease infecting our society which, if left to spread freely, is highly contagious. We have to root it out, stop it spreading and ultimately eradicate it once and for all, to enable us to live, thrive and survive successfully into the future. And the name of insidious virus attacking the fabric of our society? Racism.

Garrett Emmerson stood in a green Service jacket in front of an ambulance
Garrett Emmerson

Like all of us, I have been shocked and profoundly affected by the events of the last week or so, since the tragic death of George Floyd in America. Across the country, and across the world, people from all walks of life and all ethnic backgrounds have been standing up and saying #blacklivesmatter.

Whilst, in the UK we may not have exactly the same challenges as in the US, I only have to talk to any of my black colleagues in the London Ambulance Service to know that, all too often in this country as well, the colour of our skin still dictates the way we are treated; whether at work or in society more generally.

Over the last few years, the NHS has been a powerful force for change on race equality, developing and implementing a national Workplace Race Equality Standard (WRES), requiring NHS Trusts to develop action plans and report progress against a number of performance indicators relating to BAME staff numbers (relative to diversity of the local communities they serve), workplace experience and the diversity of their senior leadership teams.

This has driven some significant changes across the healthcare system, including improving the likelihood of BAME applicants being appointed to roles within the sector and reducing the likelihood of them entering formal disciplinary processes. They are still however more likely to be harassed or bullied at work than their white colleagues, by both other staff and patients; and we have a way to go in ensuring equal representation at more senior levels across the NHS.

In the ambulance service in London, although we have made progress in recent years; significantly improving the diversity of our senior management team and representation on our Trust Board; as well as nearly doubling our numbers of BAME staff overall, we are still some way off being truly representative of the diverse city we serve. Sadly our BAME frontline ambulance crews are also still more likely to be physically or verbally abused by patients and members of the public.

As an organisation therefore, we cannot be anything but 100% behind the principles of what #blacklivesmatter is trying to achieve. I am very clear that there is no place for racism, bullying, inequality of opportunity or any other form of discrimination in LAS.

There are however now over 1000 BAME staff in the London Ambulance Service. It’s time for their voices to heard, and it’s time for all of us across all levels of the organisation, to stand up and be counted on the issue of racism in the workplace and in the communities we serve – whether deliberately mal-intentioned or genuinely unintended. We need to call it out when we see it, to root it out when it’s not so easily visible, and to make sure that all of us have an equal opportunity to succeed.

I stand shoulder to shoulder with my BAME colleagues, with our BAME patients and with the #BlackLivesMatter movement for a fairer and more just society.

Garrett Emmerson

Chief Executive, London Ambulance Service

12 June 2020

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