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Baroness Helena Kennedy QC to lead diversity review at Royal College of Surgeons of England

16 Jul 2020

Professor Neil Mortensen, who has just become the new President at the Royal College of Surgeons of England has announced that the distinguished barrister and member of the House of Lords, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, will chair an independent review of diversity in the College’s professional leadership.

Professor Mortensen said,

“I am delighted that Baroness Kennedy has agreed to lead this work and advise our Council on how we can improve the diversity of our College. She brings unparalleled expertise and deep personal commitment to diversity and inclusion. It is so important that the leadership of our College reflects the fantastic diversity of the surgical community. 

“I want every surgical trainee, every surgeon who has come to this country to work for the NHS in these difficult times, every single person who has studied and strived to get their surgical qualifications – regardless of their gender, race or any other factor - to know they are welcome in our College, as equals.  We need to better understand the barriers that exist, so we can act and remove them.”

Helena Kennedy said,

“I am honoured to be asked to lead this review for the Royal College. Professor Mortensen is making the issue of diversity one of his signature goals as President and I am sure the membership will be very supportive. It is now being recognised by the professions, indeed all our institutions, that diversity at the highest level enriches outcomes and secures greater public trust.

“Any one of us may need the support of a surgeon at some time in our lives, so it is critical we get this right. I am really looking forward to this work, and appeal to all those with a role to play or views on the way forward, to contribute evidence to the review.”

The independent review is the first of four commitments the College made in a recent statement on ‘Challenging racism and championing diversity’. [1] This statement sets out the case for change, recognising that prejudice in surgery inhibits fulfilment of the College’s vision: to advance surgical care.

While the College has developed Unconscious Bias guidance and e-learning, and established a Women in Surgery network, the statement acknowledges this is not enough:  “We need to ensure our own professional leadership and staff are representative of the community we serve and ensure the prejudice experienced by those in our surgical community is challenged at every turn.”

About Baroness Helena Kennedy QC

Helena Kennedy has spent her professional life giving voice to those who have least power within the system, championing civil liberties and promoting human rights. A Senior Executive of the International Bar Association, she has been instrumental in effecting changes in diversity law, advancing gender equality and leading high profile inquiries such as The Kennedy Report, which brought about real change in investigations of infant death, improvements in multidisciplinary approaches and coroners’ practice. Further biographical details:


  1. The Royal College of Surgeons of England Statement on ‘Challenging racism and championing diversity’:
  2. For more information, please contact the RCS press office: telephone: 020 7869 6047; email:; out-of-hours media enquiries – 020 7869 6056.


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