Nurse leadership: targeting stem cell donation and vaccine uptake in the Sikh community

How RCN Nurse Award winner Rohit Sagoo has improved outcomes and engagement

  • Children’s nurse Rohit Sagoo set up British Sikh Nurses to improve healthcare engagement and awareness among the Sikh population
  • He works with charities, temples and the media to increase awareness of health promotion campaigns and uptake of services
  • His vision and success in this voluntary role have been recognised with the Leadership Award at the RCN Nursing Awards 2021
Rohit Sagoo outside a Sikh temple
Rohit Sagoo outside a Sikh temple Picture: Barney Newman

A nurse using a grassroots approach to improve the health and well-being of his south Asian community has made a marked impact on stem cell and living organ donation, as well as COVID-19 vaccine uptake.

For his ‘monumental’ efforts to bridge gaps between the Sikh community and the NHS, Rohit Sagoo has won the leadership category of the RCN Nursing Awards 2021. The award is sponsored by Cleveland Clinic London.

Voluntary work and strong leadership bring results

Mr Sagoo, a children’s nurse and lecturer, set up British Sikh Nurses in 2015. He has worked tirelessly for the organisation in his own time to raise awareness about organ donation and mental health issues.

His work has reached out to groups less engaged with health services, such as those from the older Sikh generation and those who do not speak English. ‘My aim is to build trust between Asian communities and healthcare providers,’ says Mr Sagoo.

He has worked with charities to raise awareness of organ and stem cell donation among the Asian diaspora, using media outlets such as the Asian TV channel and various Asian radio stations.

Increasing the number of stem cell donors

Rohit Sagoo talking on local radio
Mr Sagoo talking on local radio

Mr Sagoo’s collaboration with blood cancer charity DKMS across the UK has helped to find around 10,000 new stem cell donors from the south Asian community. ‘I have led drives around London and personally registered around 1,200 to the DKMS list,’ says Mr Sagoo.

He is proud that his campaign has seen three patients find a stem cell donor. It has also twice won funding from NHS Blood and Transplant.

Mr Sagoo adds: ‘As a children’s nurse, family-centred care is the bedrock of what I do. This work is about equality in healthcare for families.

‘My work with British Sikh Nurses is voluntary, community based and all on my own, in addition to my main job as a lecturer. I am proud that it is underpinned by the fundamental core values of good nursing care.’

Outreach work has boosted COVID-19 vaccine uptake

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has seen Mr Sagoo shift his focus towards addressing vaccine hesitancy in the south Asian community.

‘The fundamentals for service users have been engagement, communication and building trust during the pandemic, especially with support and information from credible sources,’ he says. ‘It makes a difference to people as they feel well informed.

Rohit Sagoo’s work helps connect the Sikh community with healthcare services
Mr Sagoo’s work helps connect the Sikh community with healthcare services Picture: Barney Newman

‘These discussions have proved effective, as vaccine uptake by the south Asian community has increased, and we have also engaged with Sikh gurdwaras (temples) to open vaccination centres.

‘I’ve worked even harder on social media platforms, engaging with key drivers in the Sikh community.’

Mr Sagoo’s established work with a Sikh charity has also led him to help vaccinate people who are homeless in London.

Award judges’ praise for nurse who ‘does not shy away from a challenge’

The RCN Nursing Awards judges were impressed by Mr Sagoo’s impact on organ and stem cell donation, and by his health promotion work in temples.

Chair of judges Joanne Bosanquet, chief executive of the Foundation of Nursing Studies, says: ‘Rohit is a force of nature and the very best example of a nurse entrepreneur.

Joanne Bosanquet
Joanne Bosanquet

‘He has single-handedly developed the network over the past six years while using every platform he can to gain trust among his community.

‘Rohit then shares public health messages and supports others to make informed decisions about their health and well-being. He does not shy away from a challenge. I can’t wait to see where he goes next.’

‘Driving change during a difficult time’

Deborah Small, chief nursing officer for Cleveland Clinic London, which sponsors the leadership award, says: ‘Rohit’s efforts to drive change in the south Asian community to raise awareness of organ and stem cell donations, improve uptake of the COVID-19 vaccination, and bridge the gap in healthcare for this community have been monumental.

‘I want to thank and congratulate Rohit, and all of the other RCN Nursing Awards winners, for their efforts in driving change throughout some of the most difficult times of care delivery.’

All the winners from the RCN Nursing Awards 2021