Monday 18 July is the annual national Black Leaders’ Awareness Day. It’s a day to inspire young black people to go for opportunities for career progression, and to also raise awareness for increased diversity in leadership positions.

Below are just a few of the incredible black leaders from across the St George’s, Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals and Health Group. To mark the occasion we shared their motivational quotes across our social media platforms and internal channels. If their stories inspire you, why not consider taking up a role within our hospital group?

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Arlene Wellman is Group Chief Nursing Officer for St George’s, Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals and Health Group.

Originally qualifying as a nurse in Trinidad, Arlene moved to the UK over 20 years ago to train as a midwife, but her experiences in the UK compelled her to focus and specialise in elderly care in nursing.

She has held a number of senior nursing roles across at acute trusts including Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, before being appointed Chief Nursing Officer at Epsom and St Helier in 2018, then most recently Chief Nursing Officer for our hospital group.

Highly accomplished in the field of nursing, Arlene was awarded an MBE last year in the Queen’s birthday honours for her services to the profession, for which she said she felt “humbled and grateful”.

While at Epsom and St Helier, Arlene supported development of the REACH (Racial Equality and Cultural Heritage) network, which provides a support system for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic staff and allies. The network gathers staff voices to inform decision making by the Trust Board, with Arlene being the Executive sponsor for the network.

Earlier this year, Arlene was invited to give a keynote speech on her experience in nursing as a black woman, at an event for World Cultural Diversity and Dialogue Day. In her speech she said:

“Along the way it has been difficult, there have been tears and at times I wanted to make myself smaller.

“I’m glad that I never let that voice in my head win, and that I always knew I was just as good those scrutinising me.”

Arlene thoroughly defines what it means to be a leader, and we are proud and privileged to have her in our organisation.


Dionne Daniel, Associate Director of Nursing for Clinical Practice at Epsom and St Helier

Dionne Daniel is an award-winning Associate Director of Nursing for Clinical Practice. Dionne was born in Trinidad and Tobago where she completed her nurse training. She has worked in the NHS for over 20 years in a variety of senior roles and has tallied countless achievements and contributions which have inspired so many.

Dionne has an active interest in diversity, inclusion, and is the founding member of multiple BME Networks. Dionne also has an interest in qualitative research and the history of nursing. She supports the Cavell Nurses Trust and is an NHS App Ambassador.

Dionne travels nearly three hours each day to get to work. When asked about how she feels at the Trust, Dionne said “I have never worked in a trust with so many prominent strong black figures, I remember telling my aunt who is from the Windrush generation, and she cried! I feel represented, welcomed and truly happy at work!


Martin Makato, Matron for St George’s Paediatric Intensive Care Unit and Paediatric Step Down Unit

Martin Makato is Kenyan by birth but came over to the United Kingdom do further his career in nursing. Since he joined St Georges in September 2005, he shared how he has always felt at home here.

Here at St George’s, he has been able to explore the many opportunities offered by the Trust in leadership positions and has been able to rise from a Band 4 nurse (then referred to as an Adaptation Nurse).

With the St George’s family of support and training, he has risen to be the post of the Matron for Paediatric Intensive Care Unit and Paediatric Step Down Unit. He works closely with a diverse team in PICU to create an environment where very sick children can be looked after, together with their families.

Martin has a passion for excellence in clinical care and an equal passion for creating more room for the expansion of children’s intensive care beds. For this he is one of the frontline charity champions for St George’s Time for a Change appeal to raise the funds to make this expansion happen.


Diane Weir, Service Improvement and Transformation Lead Midwife for Maternity at Epsom and St Helier

Diane joined Epsom and St Helier in August 2015, and between this date and June 2017, she was the senior band 7 midwife for the birth centre at St Helier.

Diane led a team of midwives in supporting and providing care to women who had uncomplicated pregnancies, and who wished to birth their babies in an environment that encouraged and supported the holistic approach to birth.

With her clinical expertise and knowledge, the time was right to start thinking about taking up a more senior position in managerial and leadership, so in June 2017 she applied and was successful in securing the role of Inpatient Matron at Epsom.

Diane was in the role for 18 months and following the publication of the National Maternity Review ‘Better Births-Improving outcomes of maternity services in England’ service improvement roles were created across the country for senior midwives to lead on the development and transformation of a model of maternity care that has shown to produce safe and positive outcomes for women. This model is known as Continuity of Carer and following a successful interview, she first obtained the interim role of Transformation Lead Midwife.

The role has now changed and developed, and Diane has the permanent position of being the Service Improvement and Transformation Lead Midwife for Maternity at Epsom and St Helier.


Karyn Richards-Wright, Freedom to Speak Up Guardian

As a black woman and black leader Karyn shared with us how she aims to lead by example and be the change she wishes to see.

Karyn shared:

“In any area of life being able to speak our truth and be true to who we are is imperative to our physical and mental wellbeing and that of others around us.”

Karyn hopes that she is inspiring others to speak their truth in order to cultivate the change we all need to see within the workplace and society as a whole.


Antoinette Johnson, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Epsom and St Helier

Antoinette was born in Sierra Leone, West Africa, she is award winning in her role and has worked in the NHS for 25 years. Antoinette shared the passion she has in her role:

“I am passionate about forming partnerships with our women to reduce health inequalities and promoting standards for patient safety and quality.’

Since becoming a Consultant in 2008, Antoinette invested in clinical governance, developing new clinical guidelines, pathways and leaflets, and has led Maternity CNST assessments, which gained the prestigious Chief Executive Award in 2012.

Antoinette chaired the Maternity Guideline Group for more than a decade and was the Maternity Clinical Lead from 2016 to 2020.

Antoinette is passionate about improving equality standards across the board, she helped pioneer the Maternity Cultural Transformation group that formed in 2019 to tackle health inequalities; it received the HQIP National Audit Hero Award 2022 for Health Inequalities.

Antoinette contributed to the 2022 Ockenden Final Report and is currently a co-chair for the SWL Local Maternity and Neonatal system collaborating regionally to fulfil NHSE/I objectives. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, cooking and providing free health care on medical missions to remote communities.