Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) Staff Network – Cherill’s story


My story…Cherill Watterston

Who am I?

Cherill Watterston | South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

I am a specialist physiotherapist and vice chair of the Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff network. I have worked for South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust for almost 10 years. I love working in mental health, the interaction of the physical, cognitive and emotional aspects of an individual, the complexity of the presentations that you see as a clinician and the positive impact that can be made. However I have found
the opportunities for career progression in mental health for physiotherapists few and far between.

When did I join?

I was previously aware of the BAME staff network but avoided it because of some scepticism on my part. I didn’t really know what it was about, why it was necessary or specifically, what it could do to support me. I didn’t feel like I needed any support; I enjoyed my role and received positive feedback from my line manager, colleagues and service users. I had my own misconceptions about what being involved with a staff network meant so I stayed away.

It was only after being encouraged to join by a colleague, that I really discovered exactly what staff networks have to offer and the benefits of being a member. I was only involved for a short time before putting myself forward to become a member of the steering group.

“As vice chair, I support BAME staff network chair Afsana Aslam and work with the rest of the steering group alongside the Trust to represent the voice of the network. We liaise with the board and are involved in different work streams including bullying and harassment, recruitment and learning and development. It gives us the
chance to have a positive impact on the culture of our organisation so that all staff can have a better experience and service users can receive better care”.

How did it help?

On a personal level, I have gained access to local and national courses with the NHS Leadership Academy after finding out about development opportunities from the BAME staff network. I also have a coach, Beverley Powell, the lead for inclusion and talent management with the Leadership Academy, where I have been asked to present at a future event. I have been offered training from the Trust relevant to my role and have had support from the senior leadership team with my development. I can now see that although I enjoy working as a clinician, the interpersonal skills that I have developed through working with a complex client group are directly transferable to a leadership position. Being able to communicate, listen, understand, show compassion and be aware of how our own experiences, thoughts and behaviour can impact on meaningful interactions, are all leadership essentials.

“Through being involved in the network my passion has been ignited. I have increased my knowledge of the Trust, how it works and how staff members can actively be involved in shaping the decisions that influence organisational structure and development.”

At the BAME staff network, I have met a group of people that are passionate about equality and diversity and focus on making a difference. The network creates an environment whereby people support one another in celebrating their achievements, maximising their potential and also challenging the Trust when things are not going well. We live in a multicultural society and we work in a multicultural organisation, where appreciating the value that diversity brings is the fundamental premise. Genuinely appreciating diversity means that we live the values of the Trust and can provide better care for the people that we are here to support.

After my initial scepticism, I can now clearly see the benefit of staff networks like the BAME network. On a personal level it has helped me focus my aim and development, providing
guidance to broaden my career opportunities. Becoming vice chair has fuelled my passion to create positive change within the organisation and tackle the key topics, to support and create opportunities for other members.

If you work for the Trust and would like to find out more information about the BAME staff network or interested in becoming a member, contact

Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) Staff Network – Cherill’s story

time to read: 3 min