Celebrating NHS 75 years anniversary: Dionne’s story


Dionne Howe is Scheduling Manager for International and Private Care and Chair of our staff REACH Network (Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage).

She’s been at GOSH for 27 years, so we caught up with her ahead of the NHS 75th Birthday to find out her journey at GOSH.

Dionne joined GOSH in 1995 and explains a family connection got her the role.

‘After college, I got in some trouble after running up a phone bill. My mum found out and said I had to work to pay it off!

‘My mum was at GOSH for over twenty years. She started as a nurse and later ran the hospital sterilisation and decontamination unit (HSDU). That’s where I started working part time as a Saturday job. My brother has worked here too. I was a patient here and so was my daughter for a short time. It’s all about GOSH really – I don’t know anything else!’



Dionne worked at GOSH for 16 years before taking voluntary redundancy to care for her mum when she fell ill. When she was ready to return to work two years later, she was ready for a change.

‘I asked the agency to send me anywhere but GOSH! It was all I’d ever known so I was ready for a change. Would you believe the very first assignment they gave me was back at GOSH. To be honest, it felt like coming home.

‘I’ve been in International and Private Care for over ten years, but I’ve been all over. I’ve worked in main reception, estates and facilities, procurement, PGME, education and training and more! I think it’s that varied experience that has helped me stay so long.



She remembers working together with her mum and the experiences that came out of their time here together.

‘Mum got nominated to go to Buckingham Palace for the summer garden party for managing one of the leading HSD units in the country at the time. We went together with my grandmother.

‘The only thing I really remember was the orange juice. It was like watery squash. I really remember being disappointed that that was the drink in the palace!

‘But it did mean something to my mum and grandmother, that’s why it’s special to me. My mum has passed away now, but we’ve got a photo of all three of us outside Buckingham Palace together.’



Not only is it the 75th birthday of the NHS, but also 75 years since Windrush, when the HMT Empire Windrush arrived in the UK carrying 492 passengers from the West Indies.

This anniversary also has link with Dionne’s family.

‘The anniversary of Windrush is in June and the NHS birthday is in July. It just shows the impact that migrants from different countries have had on building the NHS and making it was it is.

‘My mum came over in Windrush and joined the NHS to train as a nurse. She planned to only stay for five years, but stayed in the NHS until she retired. She was here for over 40 years before she passed.

‘She spoke about the racism she faced in those early days and how difficult it was to adjust to life in Southampton where she trained. She especially didn’t like the cold weather!’



Dionne has recently been promoted to Chair of the REACH Network, something that enables her to continue to enact change in the NHS and address some of the problems that persist today.

‘I joined the Network after a birthday party we held for my daughter when she was 15. We had it at home, and thanks to the power of social media, we had a lot more kids turn up than we had planned. One of our neighbours called the police and reported that someone had a knife.

‘The police arrived, searched everyone and of course reported that everything was fine. But it really brought home to me that these kids are being picked on just for the way that they looked. It was all about stereotypes. Someone saw a group of young boys and automatically assumed they’re up to no good. What kind of influence is that going to have on these kids?

‘What upset me was that these were the most polite and respectful kids, even the police said that these were the nicest set of kids they’ve ever had to deal with.

‘It’s uncomfortable that these scenarios are still happening. I’ve been listening to Mat [Shaw] and how he’s prepared to have these uncomfortable conversations at GOSH, and I realised I wanted to be part of that.

‘Nothing changes if everyone’s silent, and that’s what made me want to join.’



But Dionne is hopeful about the progress she’s seen during her time at GOSH and the progress still to be made.

‘I have seen positive change here at GOSH. The types of conversations that the exec team are now willing to have with staff is really encouraging. They’re visible and they’re willing to engage and that sets the tone for the organisation.

‘But there is more that needs to be done. I don’t feel I’ve experienced racism or a lack of career progression here at GOSH - but since joining the Network, I’ve realised that’s not everyone’s experience.



And can she put her finger on why she’s stayed for so long?

‘There must be something special about GOSH for me to have been here so long. It’s the people really, I’ve made some really strong friendships.’

‘It’s also in the moments you share with the patients and families: when you see a patient ring the end of treatment bell, when they happily wave goodbye to go home to their country and when families say to you “thank you, you’ve made a really hard experience more bearable”. That makes all the difference.’

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