Salma Yasmeen, Executive Director of Strategy and Change, South West Yorkshire NHS Foundation Trust
Leading change and improvement in the NHS through collaboration and staff empowerment
Salma Yasmeen is Executive Director of Strategy and Change in the South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. She takes pride both in her Yorkshire birthplace and in her strong south Asian heritage. She was recently named as one of twenty top-performing BAME leaders in UK public service and a delegate on the National Leadership Centre’s ‘Accelerate’ programme. From a background in mental health nursing, Salma has gone on to work in Yorkshire, London and the Middle East. Her experiences have shaped her approach to leading change and improvement in the NHS.
'Sharing Voices': "We arranged for healthcare leaders and professionals to meet diverse communities in places of their choice...Twenty years ago that was quite radical."
‘Co-design and co-production’ has always been Salma’s preferred way of working. Inspired by leading psychiatrists and thinkers like Patrick Bracken and Philip Thomas she helped create a pioneering Bradford mental health charity, ‘Sharing Voices’, in partnership with the NHS. It aimed to put people and communities at the heart of new solutions for mental health issues. She says: “It had to be about building better relationships. So we arranged for healthcare leaders and professionals to meet diverse communities in places of their choice. We discussed what they saw as issues and challenges, and looked for solutions they found acceptable. Twenty years ago that was quite radical. It taught me the value of genuine co-production, and the power and resilience of communities.”
A different perspective: "I had to avoid imposing my own perceptions."
Another key influence has been Salma’s experience at King Fahad Medical City in Saudi Arabia, where she worked as the Director of Nursing Services and Transformation. “Culturally it was really different," she reflects. "Many women worked in healthcare, in leadership and business roles. Issues around equality weren’t perfect, but I had to avoid imposing my own perceptions. There was real commitment to deliver cutting-edge innovations in healthcare, and women had a powerful voice in that.”
A culture of real collaboration: "We wanted a culture where front-line staff can make change happen."
Currently Salma works alongside the Board and executive team to modernise the Trust. “We wanted a culture where front-line staff can make change happen, because real change has to begin with them," states Salma. "If there’s no risk, no complexity and no cost involved then every single person should be empowered.” This is equally as important in big-change programmes. For instance, nearly 400 people from all across the Trust helped choose the new clinical record system and even more staff were involved in the implementation phase.
Salma’s integrated Change team had to pivot its work to meet the Covid challenge. “We had to accelerate our digital programs so staff could work remotely, but still have time to work face to face with people who needed it.”
"It’s about looking at a patient's journey, and their pathway of care, from their perspective, in their communities."
Salma also led the Marketing and Communications team at the heart of the Trust’s response. They introduced daily briefings from the CEO and regular ‘huddles’, open to every staff member. That approach extends to the whole organisation. “we’ve built much stronger relationships with our partners. Our aim has always been to deliver joined-up care and support, and to tackle inequalities. That’s now at the core of the national approach to ‘Integrated Care Partnerships’ – getting people to work across organisational and professional boundaries. It’s about looking at a patient's journey, and their pathway of care, from their perspective, in their communities."
Flexibility is the key: "Our responses to Covid are forcing us to think differently about work/life balance, workplaces, and relationships with staff and communities."
As a female NHS leader, Salma believes flexibility is vital. “Leadership is about setting the tone. Most of my team are women, and many have children, and caring responsibilities. It’s harder when they’re working in clinical areas, but in corporate roles you can always allow flexibility. Our responses to Covid are forcing us to think differently about work/life balance, workplaces, and relationships with staff and communities. It's a chance to make people’s working lives better and happier.” #nhsheroes#womeninthenhs
Genevieve Shaw, editor