Sarah Amani from Oxford Health was named the Digital Champion of the year at the first ever Black and Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) Health and Care Awards in London on Thursday, October 17.

Sarah works as a senior programme manager for the NHS England (South) funded South of England Early Intervention in Psychosis Programme and was awarded for her achievements on two fronts: setting up the Shuri Network for women of colour and developing numerous digital tools to improve patient outcomes in her specialist area.

Sarah Amani, digital champion, and champion for equality and diversity.

Ten years ago Sarah was the first black female chief clinical information officer in the whole of the UK. Even today there are only five female digital health senior leaders from BAME background working in the NHS, out of some 500 such roles.

In July Sarah and Dr Shera Chok, Medical Director at Tower Hamlets GP Federation, co-founded the Shuri Network (pictured above with Matthew Gould, CEO of NHSX), the first network of BAME women in digital health for health and social care. It is a joint project with NHS England, NHS Digital and Health Education England and is part of the Building a Digitally Ready Workforce programme.

The Shuri Network is for all women of colour who are leading, involved with or interested in digital health and technology in the NHS, as well as aspiring leaders. Anyone who’s not from a BAME background, but has an interest in supporting the network, is also welcome to join as an ally.

“We want to help women of colour feel that they are able to apply for and succeed in roles in informatics in digital health. We want them, in turn, to act as champions in their trusts and organisations to inspire the next generation of digital leaders,” Sarah says.

The network now has 500 members and more are welcome – from all backgrounds and genders; women of colour as well as their allies.

In her professional role for the South of England Early Intervention in Psychosis Programme Sarah has developed a range digital tools to support teams to track their achievements and plan improvements to quality and patient outcomes. The programme is clinically led by professor Belinda Lennox and works across 16 trusts and 13 sustainability transformation partnerships.

The goal of the programme is to improve access to a specialist at the earliest signs if a psychosis is suspected, and therefore improve prognosis and outcomes. In a range of studies, early intervention in psychosis has also proved highly cost-effective.

“I am a bit of a multitasking ninja,” Sarah laughs. “I work on multiple projects, including helping commissioners to secure funding, supporting clinical teams to improve access and care, implementing research and developing tools like dashboards to give timely feedback,” she describes.

“I feel good about the award, but we still have such a long way to go in terms of diversity and equality. I’m happy about the visibility that the Shuri Network has brought on the topic. I am hopeful we can inspire a future digital health leadership workforce that reflects the diversity of our workforce and the people we serve.”

See more about the Shuri Network.

More about the national BAME Health and Care Awards