Giving BAME Cancer Patients Back Their Dignity
Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) NHS Trust has joined forces with city hair salons to help
provide wigs and headscarves for cancer patients from minority ethnic backgrounds.
The project came about after the Trust’s Assistant Director of Nursing met with Sistas Against
Cancer, which supports BAME women.
Patients told of the humiliation of having to leave hospital in told NUH’s BAME Shared Governance
group about the humiliation of leaving hospital in a blue, pink or green wigs after chemotherapy.
Their experiences echoed the findings of the Annual National Cancer Patient Experience survey,
which found that patients from minority ethnic background were not being offered wigs to match
their hair or skin colour, and this was impacting on their mental health and self-esteem.
Aquiline Chivinge MBE, Assistant Director of Nursing at NUH, said: “The women were clear that the
treatment for cancer was excellent but when they started losing their hair, we didn’t have enough
choice in hair products.
“I saw them as my sisters and mothers and aunties. I thought it could be me next and I need to make
The project was taken up by the Trust’s BAME Shared Governance Council and supported with a
£3,200 grant from Nottingham Hospitals Charity.
- gave patients a voucher to be used towards a wig or headscarf
- partnered with hair salons and specialists to offer patients a choice of wigs
- produced an information leaflet targeted at people from an ethnic minority background
- produced a factsheet with details of hairdressers, wig providers and support organisations
- delivered awareness training to staff at NUH and in other Trusts
- developed a confidential, electronic patient survey
“This has restored my faith in the NHS,” said one patient. “BAME SG has shown that there are
people like us who can champion our voice and affect change. I am confident that this will improve
the care of BAME patients with cancer and help restore our dignity.”
And another said: “Thank you for making me look like me.”
A key factor in the project’s success was the multidisciplinary team approach – involving the Trust’s
Lead Cancer Nurse, Chief Nurse, Chief People Officer, Head of Equality Diversity and Inclusion,
Assistant Director of Nursing (ADN) for Research and the ADN for Education, and Macmillan Cancer
Nurses – and executive buy-in and support from Nottingham Hospitals Charity.
“Going out into our community, listening to what they say about our services and acting on that
feedback has been the major factor for the success of this project,” said Aquiline. “With the support
of our new CEO, Anthony May, Chief Nurse Michelle Rhodes, and other execs, I am excited about
positive future relationships with our communities and what we could achieve together to improve
patient experience and reduce health inequalities.”
Alexie Hylton is the owner of the Elite 9 salon in Nottingham and a trichologist. She knows firsthand
how it feels to suffer with hair loss.
“Many years ago, I lost my hair due to over-processing and a colour that went drastically wrong,”
said Alexie. “My world fell apart as my hair has always been my pride and glory – I literally cried and
cried. I followed a tailored treatment plan and I now have hair again. This is what inspired me to
become a trichologist.”
Alexie found a real Afro hair wig for Dr Rose Thompson, Chief Executive of the charity B’Me Against
Cancer and part of the Sistas Against Cancer group, after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Dr Thompson said: “I didn’t know what an emotional impact losing my hair would have on me as a
black woman. We needed different wigs for black and Asian women with different hair textures.
“One woman didn’t want to take the children to school because of her wig. It keeps people indoors.
“Everybody has complimented me when I’ve worn the wig Alexie found me – I felt so much more
“I can’t thank Aquiline enough, she came out of her comfort zone to make this happen.”
Alexie added: “Not many companies make wigs that are suitable for women of colour – they’re
usually the wrong colour or texture. We spent years doing research to find reputable suppliers that
can cater for BAME patients.”
“We’re extremely passionate about restoring people’s confidence with a natural, flawless looking
wig. I feel truly excited and extremely passionate about being given the opportunity to work with the
NHS – I can use my wealth of experience and expertise to help people with hair loss.”
The initiative – which was shortlisted in the prestigious Patient Experience Network National Awards – will now be rolled out to all patients with alopecia.
“I feel so humbled – but very proud – of what we have achieved,” said Aquiline. “Other Trusts have
contacted us about how we have taken this project forward. I am really excited that something
which started so small on a cold evening in Radford has led to a whole change.”
For more information please contact us or see the BAME Wigs Project with NUH.