Community and belonging: Gateshead Health’s growing staff networks

Staff networks have become increasingly popular in recent years as employees seek ways to connect with colleagues with similar backgrounds, beliefs, or interests.

Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust is committed to promoting diversity and inclusivity in its workforce.

The organisation believes that employing staff from all different backgrounds brings diverse experiences and life, leading to innovation and better outcomes for staff and patients alike. Gateshead Health recognises that when staff feel safe, empowered, and connected to the organisation and its values, patients feel the same. Thus, the organisation ensures that its people have the right opportunities to develop their skills and careers and work in a safe, fair, and kind environment.

Gateshead Health has several active and growing staff networks that offer many benefits to their members. For starters, they offer a sense of community and belonging that can be hard to find in a large organisation. Connecting with colleagues who share your experiences or passions can make you feel more engaged and motivated.

Gateshead Health’s staff networks also provide necessary support and resources. For example, a network focused on mental health might offer resources and guidance for employees struggling with stress or anxiety. In contrast, a network for working parents might provide advice and support for balancing work and family life.

Most importantly, staff networks can help promote workplace diversity and inclusion. By giving employees from underrepresented groups a platform to share their experiences and perspectives, networks can help to raise awareness and drive change across the organisation.

So, what staff networks does Gateshead Health have, and what do they look like?

Gateshead’s Global Ethnic Majority (GEM) Network

The GEM network is an integral part of our organisation, dedicated to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion among the workforce. The network meets once every month and provides a supportive community for staff members from diverse ethnic backgrounds. It serves as a platform for networking, sharing experiences, and addressing issues relevant to GEM staff within the organisation. Membership is open to all GEM staff and students within the organisation and to those who are passionate in promoting equity for GEM staff, students and patient experience. Allies are welcome to attend network meetings, contributing to the organisation’s journey towards inclusive excellence. One of the network’s objectives is working in partnership with the community and this was a community event in tackling health Inequalities.

GEM Network - Community Outreach 2023
GEM Network – Community Outreach 2023

Together, we champion diversity, foster inclusion, and inspire positive change within our organisation and beyond.

Anita Nakato, Chair of the GEM network

D-Ability Network

A staff network called D-Ability meets every month. It is open to all staff with a disability or long-term health condition or those who want to promote disability equality. Even support and care workers who look after disabled people can attend. The network has over 90 members and welcomes new members regularly. It’s a great place to find support from colleagues with similar life experiences. For example, if someone has recently been diagnosed with a neurodiverse condition, they can join the network to get advice and information that might help them. It’s important to note that the D-Ability network cannot provide any diagnosis but can offer valuable support and resources.

D-Ability Staff Network
D-Ability Staff Network

The D-Ability network is a supportive community that meets monthly over a cup of tea. It’s an excellent opportunity to take a break, unwind and chat with colleagues who share similar experiences. Members can share their stories, ask questions, and exchange information. We believe that laughter is the best medicine, and we always make sure to have a good chuckle together. Our main goal is to provide a safe space for everyone to get the support they need. Whether you seek advice or resources or want to connect with like-minded people, the D-Ability network is here.

Eileen Scott-Haynes, Chair of the D-Ability network

LGBTQ+ Network

Gateshead Health has implemented a trust-wide network for LGBTQ+ individuals that is open to all employees. A supportive work environment where staff can be themselves and feel comfortable sharing with their colleagues and managers leads to better mental well-being and increased motivation. Ultimately, this translates into better care for Gateshead Health patients.

Pride 2023 Gateshead Health
Pride 2023 Gateshead Health

As co-chair of the LGBTQ+ network, I want all our staff to be comfortable bringing their whole selves to work. Annual events such as Pride and LGBTQ+ History Month are essential, but we must remember that the LGBTQ+ agenda is not all about rainbows and flags. It isn’t just something to focus on for the occasional month or odd day. It’s an everyday matter. It’s about our culture. The network ensures our voices are heard all year round and holds the trust to account. The key benefits of the network include supporting each other, planning, and celebrating our successes. If things go wrong or there are concerns, we can challenge, learn, and improve, ultimately making Gateshead Health the best for everyone.

Doctor Mike Wilkinson, co-chair of the LGBTQ+ network

Women in Medicine Network

The Gateshead Health Women in Medicine Network is a valuable resource for women working or looking to work at Gateshead Health throughout their medical careers. Even though around half of the doctors employed by the trust are female, the medical field is still primarily dominated by men. This network provides a space for all specialities and grades of doctors to come together for monthly meetings, including physicians, surgeons, pathologists, paediatricians, psychiatrists, and trainee doctors at the trust.

It is no secret that the gender pay gap is a hot topic for women doctors across the country, and this network at Gateshead Health is no exception. Women in medicine are often paid less for the same work as their male colleagues.

Women in Medicine Network - Nithya Ravtnavelu, Oroog Ali, Dr Jo Knight and Tineke Vergeldt
Women in Medicine Network – Nithya Ravtnavelu, Oroog Ali, Dr Jo Knight and Tineke Vergeldt

Created in 2021, the Gateshead Health Women in Medicine Network has provided a safe space and collegiate environment for female medical professionals to share their experiences to learn and support each other. Being part of this group has highlighted that many like-minded women are travelling the same path and experiencing the same inequalities. Through these networking opportunities, we have organised to effect positive change within the workforce.

Catherine Kirkley, chair of the Women in Medicine network

Menopause Warriors Group

Gateshead Health has a dedicated menopause support group called Menopause Warriors. It offers a safe and understanding space for staff to discuss their experiences and support each other.

In the latest staff survey, 81.5% of colleagues told us they were female. Suppose you consider the age profile of the trust’s workforce. In that case, this means that at any given time, Gateshead Health expects around a quarter of colleagues to experience menopause, peri-menopause, and their effects.

Menopause Warriors Group, Gateshead Health
Menopause Warriors Group, Gateshead Health

The Menopause Warriors support group organised by the trust provides comprehensive support to its staff. The group provides various valuable resources, including the Menopause Passport, which helps staff discuss how menopause affects their work. They also offer handy, quick guides for managers and staff, dedicated webinars, and recommendations for reading and podcasts, among other things.

Our Menopause Warriors group is a fantastic example of how helpful the community can be when providing support, tackling stigma, overcoming challenges, and making progress. Kindly led by Alison Harvey, our Warriors meet monthly and keep in touch via a WhatsApp group. At the same time, our buddy system also provides a listening ear on a more personal basis. The organisation continues to look for ways it can and hopes to launch menopause awareness training sessions for colleagues later this year.

Dale Jones, co-chair of the group

Gateshead Health is committed to creating a culture designed and lived by all its staff, patients, and visitors. The goal is to promote inclusivity and equality by encouraging individuals to challenge discrimination whenever it occurs actively. The organisation will support all staff to challenge and confront discrimination constructively and in a safe environment.