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 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 qualified with a medical degree and began my career in general medicine. During my time there I managed various physical health projects in Pakistan. I also spent 11 months working for a community development programme, near the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan under extremely dangerous and high risk conditions. I worked closely with political leaders, the government and voluntary organisations to allow me to continue my work there and 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 to have a wider impact on healthcare and make a difference.
Arriving with £650 in my pocket, I undertook and completed qualifications in health and social care and a master’s in public health even though I had a medical degree. This is when I started to realise how different the system is here in the UK.
I became a student rep at university and spent most of my time working whilst others partied. In terms of barriers and challenges of being a BME member of staff, 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 2005, I achieved a postgraduate certificate (PGC) in health and social care management, following on from this, I completed a Masters in Public Health and another Masters In Social Work.
Prior to HPFT, in 2013 I got my first management role in a Community NHS Trust. However it was not in the right direction for me, and after giving my notice, 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 have been nominated as ‘Lead Ambassador’ in our ‘Good to Great’ journey and more recently awarded the Chief Executive Award for this work.
I really enjoy the fast pace and complexity of the role. I am keen to improve things and deliver better outcome for the service users. As a leader, I lead from the front, work 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 staff. However, as a BME member staff, one of the problems is the lack of role model. At times, the career pathways were not entirely clear; there was lack of guidance and support. I had to work through the challenges that came across, professionally and patiently. I knew, 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 I had achieved results and delivered outcomes, yet 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 get 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."