As it celebrates its second birthday, the Shuri Network has issued a call of action to its allies to help promote change over the next 12 months.

Speaking at the Virtual Summer School (VSS), two years on from when it officially launched in 2019, members and supporters of the network discussed how the NHS IT community can promote diversity in leadership roles.

Though there has been progress made in the last two years, including membership growing from 500 to 1200 and the introduction of a virtual shadowing programme, co-founder and chair of the network Dr Shera Chok emphasised there is more that can be done.

“The Shuri Network is two years old, many of you have been on the journey with us since we were born in Leeds, and we very much value your support, but the question now is what’s next?,” she said.

“We want to issue a call to action to everyone on this call today – what can you do to take things forward? Look around, look at your teams, if they are not diverse, there is something with your recruitment and retention strategy.

“Commit to taking action as a CIO or as a CEO or as a director of finance or a physiotherapist or a nurse or a doctor. Create those safe spaces and open the door to somebody who may not be within your usual sphere of social contact.

“Do something within the next 12 months and tell us what you are doing so we can share how you are changing the culture within your organsiation.”

Also speaking on the panel were:

  • Lisa Emery – CIO, Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust
  • Tracey Thomas – Senior Project Manager, NHS Digital
  • Mary Hopkins – Head of Business Systems and Informatics, NHS Wales Shared Services
  • Eddie Ola – Regional Director for Digital Transformation, NHS Midlands
  • Abida Abbas – CCIO , South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Emery and Hopkins shared their experiences of taking part in the Shuri Shadowing Programme – a virtual partnership between two people, ‘‘the ally/host’ and a Shuri network ‘member/guest’ which promotes peer-to-peer learning.

Even though she was the “ally/host”, Emery said she has benefitted from taking part from the programme as it has given her more insight into how she helps women in her own team.

“It’s given me a massive amount of food for thought and I thoroughly intend to keep it going,” she added.

While Hopkins said the experience had given her an opportunity to “demystify” digital health.

She added that she’s had “fantastic conversations” with Lisa, service directors and other colleagues in the NHS that has allowed her to better understand the industry.

Attendees also heard from patient advocate, Liz O’Riordan about her experiences of being a cancer patient in the NHS. O’Riordan gave a  powerful reminder that technology isn’t just a tool to benefit clinicians, it’s also a tool to empower patients.

The Digital Health Summer School 2021 is taking place on July 15 and 16. The free virtual event is exclusive to NHS and Public sector members of the Digital Health Networks only.

Register here.