Owais Ahmed, Service Manager for West Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team (CATT) and the Acute Day Treatment Unit (ADTU), tells us his story, about coming to England to boost his career, and his life changing experiences as a BME member of staff at HPFT.
In his role as Service Manager, Owais is responsible for overseeing both the West CATT and ADTU teams.
CATT provides urgent assessments for people who are in crisis due to their mental health. It offers home treatment as an alternative to an inpatient stay. The crisis team is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The team works closely with the Community Mental Health Team, ADTU, and host families to offer support in the community.
The ADTU offers a therapeutic environment that provides support and treatment for people in acute mental health crisis. It is an alternative to an inpatient stay. The unit is open seven days a week, all year round. The service enables people to stay at home and still receive acute treatment and support.
Here is his story.
"I grew up in Pakistan, where I completed my medical degree and began my career in general medicine. After working in an acute clinical setting for a couple of years, I worked for a community development programme in a deprived community, near the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan under extremely dangerous and high risk conditions. I worked in close association with political leaders, the government and voluntary organisations in that area. I established the first basic health unit in that area and led on various projects to help civilians in deprived communities. Most people could not imagine the things I saw in this role. These 11 months changed my whole life and this is what made me want to change the system. I came to the UK in 2004 for higher studies and to extend my skills and experience.
Beyond doubt, I had boarded on a new but challenging journey with limited resources. In 2005, I achieved a postgraduate certificate (PGC) in health and social care management. This was when I started to realise how versatile the social care system in the UK is. Later I completed MSc in Public Health and a second Masters in Social Work whilst continuing to work as a front line clinician. During my academic life I became a student rep at university and spent most of my time working and studying whilst others partied. Being a BME person, career pathways were not clear and at the time there was not much guidance for someone in my position. I learnt and experienced everything first hand and knew that I needed to work harder to get to where I wanted to be.
In 2013 I got my first management role in a community nursing and therapy team. I demonstrated my leadership and management skills by shaping the team and putting systems and procedures in place. However it was not in the right direction for me. When I handed in my notice to move to HPFT my manager said: ‘We knew you were overqualified and would move onto bigger things,” which was very encouraging and boosted my confidence.
Since joining HPFT in 2014 as a Service Manager for Adult Community Services, I have had many opportunities to develop my skills and expand my experience. I was nominated as ‘Lead Ambassador’ in our ‘Good to Great’ journey - improving joint working, delivering better care and better outcomes. This was outside of my operational role but something that I was extremely passionate about. In 2016, I was awarded the Chief Executive Award for the work in this area.
Later in 2017, I took the role of Service Manager for West CATT and ADTU. I really enjoy the fast pace and complexity of the role. I am keen to improve things and deliver better outcomes for the service users. As a leader, I lead from the front, working on the front line with my team whenever possible. I go out with my clinicians, listen to their views and concerns. This is so vital to improve things and services.
Throughout my career I came across variety of challenges but not particularly as a BME person. However, as a BME member staff, one of the problems is the lack of role models. At times, the career pathways were not entirely clear; there was a lack of guidance and support. I had to work through the challenges that I came across, professionally and patiently. I knew that I needed to work harder to get to where I wanted to be; with continuous hard work, dedication and determination.
Overall, I am proud of my achievements, but I believe that I have much more potential and a lot to offer which remains unrecognised. I am not a person who can sell himself strongly and celebrate personal achievements loudly. This may be the reason that at times I have undermined myself and left my hard work and achievements unacknowledged. There have been times when results and outcomes I achieved and delivered were overlooked. I think cultural issues play a role in this and it may be the same for some other BME staff as well. I was always taught that working to the best of your abilities always gets recognition. On the contrary, I have experienced that doing the job well is not just enough, talking about it, its publicity and celebration is equally essential for recognition.
As a BME Leader and a success story, I encourage everyone to pursue their roles by focusing on character, resilience and self-knowledge; never assume or feel discriminated in any situation, continue to work hard, learn, reflect and celebrate your success; people will eventually recognise you and your potential, and you will earn success."