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The inclusivity summit

 
Thursday, 15 August 2019

The inclusivity summit

As ever, Sir Trevor Longstay knew exactly what he wanted. “This has to be an exclusive event. I want all the right people there – and a decent lunch. See to it Plackard,” he said.

Martin Plackard, head of meaningful co-production and stakeholder outreach strategy at NHS Blithering, looked uncomfortable.

“As we’re billing this as a Diversity and Inclusivity Summit, I just wondered if we ought to cast a wider net,” he said.

“Nonsense, man. We can’t have just anyone turning up,” replied Sir Trevor. “We need the great and good, a national speaker, panel of experts, the think- tank fellow with the ginger hair and that woman Heaver from the Mod Institute to organise some games.”

Plackard went in for a second attempt with all the assurance of a man with a water pistol tackling a burning warehouse.

“Perhaps a few representatives from the communities we serve,” he suggested meekly, trying not to make it sound like a question.

Sir Trevor frowned. “You can have one, but he’ll need to be hand-picked – and try and keep him away from the speakers. Sir Neil doesn’t like strangers.”

“You said ‘him’.  How about her, or someone non-binary,” suggested Linda Quorn, Blithering’s newly appointed interim director of people and OD. Her tone was challenging, verging on aggressive.

Several anxious faces turned in Quorn’s direction. An unsolicited suggestion to Sir Trevor was dangerous. Contradicting him was usually fatal.

Sir Trevor, who was only vaguely aware of gender fluidity and assumed it was a branch of urology, chose to ignore the interruption. It was Quorn’s first week. Everyone deserved up to one chance.  

Plackard bravely stepped in for a second squirt.

“Do you mean Sir Neil Roper?” he asked.

“Who else? Neil is the service’s leading diversity expert. Fine man, entertaining speaker, plays off a handicap of four,” Sir Trevor replied.

Plackard mentally holstered his water pistol. Roper’s mainly white National Diversity Team was universally derided. The event would be a disaster. He, Plackard, would be a laughing stock.

Dr David Rummage glanced up from the iPad he was using to scroll through the vacancies on NHS Jobs. “And we all know why there are no women on Sir Groper’s team,” he said, pursing his lips in mock-disapproval.  

“Scurrilous and inappropriate, Rummage,” Sir Trevor said. “No case was ever brought.”

“Besides his wife is Welsh,“ he added, settling once and for all the matter of Sir Neil’s sexual politics and ethnic credentials.

He turned to Plackard. “Anything else, Plackard?”  Then, without pausing for an answer: “Good, well get on with it.”

Plackard smiled weakly and thanked Sir Trevor for his input.

The voice from the bottom

Later, Plackard found himself face to face with Bev Heaver, chief transformationalist at the Mod Institute. Not the real Heaver, but a pixelated version beamed through the ether by the wonders of Skype.

She had insisted on a virtual conference even though she was no more than five yards away in the next office. If Plackard turned the sound down, he could clearly hear Heaver’s voice through the stud wall. He could also hear the whooping and high-fiving of her team every time she voiced an idea or came up with a new term to – as she put it – “challenge old thought by unthinking it”.

No one could remember quite how the Mod Institute had come to occupy the second biggest office in the building after Sir Trevor’s management suite. Legend had it that Blithering had been one stop in a national thought leadership roadshow in 2009. The Mods were only supposed to be there for an afternoon hackathon but had never left.  

It was rumoured that Heaver had the ear of the top brass or knew where some bodies were buried. Even Sir Trevor, with his formidable reputation for toughness, if not brutality, was reluctant to turf them out. Risk-aversion, as he was fond of saying, was the better part of valour.

“And how does that make you feel, Martin?”

Plackard zoned back in, suddenly aware that Heaver’s “12 ways to stimulate the voice from the bottom” monologue had come to an end and that she was actually speaking to him.

“Great,” he replied enthusiastically. “Really empowered,” he added.

The virtual Heaver frowned. “Martin, I just gave you five alienation scenarios of marginalised people and communities. We need to work on your empathy.”

Plackard agreed that his empathy needed work and closed his laptop with a heavy heart.

Through the wall he could hear Bev Heaver revving up again. That meant there would soon be more whooping.

Plackard’s enthusiasm for inclusion had evaporated. He made a hasty beeline for the door. If he hurried, he could still catch Rummage in the pub.

Editor: Julian Patterson

julian.patterson@networks.nhs.uk
@NHSnetworks