Advisory Board

The Synergi Collaborative Centre Advisory Board provides advice, recommendations, governance and assistance with future planning and sources of investment for long term sustainability.

Synergi Collaborative Centre Stroke
Chair: Marcia Willis Stewart QC (Hon) - Advisory Board Chair and Director, Birnberg Peirce Ltd

Chair: Marcia Willis Stewart QC (Hon)Advisory Board Chair and Director, Birnberg Peirce Ltd

Marcia Willis Stewart QC (Hon), is an award-winning civil rights lawyer of Jamaican parentage and a Director at the renowned Birnberg Peirce & Partners law firm. Willis Stewart has championed legal aid and has represented families in challenging and high profile cases. She acted for the family of Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes, shot dead by police in 2005, and represented the family at the inquest into the 2011 police shooting of Mark Duggan. More recently, Willis Stewart was the lead lawyer for the legal team acting on behalf of 77 of the 96 families of the deceased at the Hillsborough Inquests, and helped to secure justice when it was ruled that the 96 victims were unlawfully killed. Her sterling work has been recognised both here and abroad. She was awarded Legal Aid Practitioners’ Group Public Law Solicitor of the Year 2015, a joint winner of the prestigious Rule of Law award at the Halsbury Awards 2017, given the Football Black List 2017 Commercial Award, listed in The Lawyer Hot 100 2017 and named the Solicitors Journal Awards 2017 Personality of the Year. In 2017, she was made an honorary Queen’s Counsel.

Photo credit: Sarah Booker

Aronda Atkinson - Mental Health Project Worker

Aronda AtkinsonMental Health Project Worker

Aronda Atkinson lives in the East End of London and has over 14 years’ experience working with people with lived experience of mental health issues, culminating in social exclusion and deprivation, and more recently with people experiencing homelessness. A carer for more than 30 years, this role has provided Aronda with an insight into primary and secondary services with a particular awareness of its deficits and responses, principally in relation to those from African and Caribbean communities. Currently studying full time, this period of study is underpinning the ways in which she can think about how increased resilience and social capital can produce protective factors to support marginalised communities and improve its mental wellbeing.

Cathy Stancer - Director, Equality and Rights, Lankelly Chase Foundation

Cathy StancerDirector, Equality and Rights, Lankelly Chase Foundation

Cathy Stancer has spent most of her career working with women facing multiple disadvantage, at Women in Prison and WISH (Women in Secure Hospitals). Like everyone who has worked in these settings, especially with women, she almost got used to hearing about extreme and repeated abuse and systems failures. At Lankelly Chase she finds it exciting to be part of something that makes sense of these experiences and is so optimistic and ambitious. Her work involves building a quantitative and qualitative picture of the lives of people facing severe and multiple disadvantage, and exploring how severe and multiple disadvantage is experienced by different groups of people and the intersections with (and between) gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation. Cathy follows rights-based approaches and the use of the law as a tool for change and works with AGENDA, the new alliance for women and girls at risk, and our programme of work around ethnic inequality in mental health.

Dr Debbie Weekes-Bernard - Policy and Research Manager, Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Dr Debbie Weekes-BernardPolicy and Research Manager, Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Dr Debbie Weekes-Bernard is Policy and Research Manager at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). She manages JRF work on ethnicity and poverty and child poverty, with additional expertise in labour markets, education, lone parents and young people.  Debbie was previously Head of Research for the Runnymede Trust where she was responsible for research on racial inequalities in education, the labour market and the criminal justice system, working closely with teachers, trade unions and academics.  She has a PhD in Social Psychology/Sociology, is a trustee for the Equality and Diversity Forum and has served locally in East London as a Chair of Governors for two federated primary schools.

Dr J S Bamrah, FRCPsych - Senior Consultant Psychiatrist and Honorary Reader, the University of Manchester

Dr J S Bamrah, FRCPsychSenior Consultant Psychiatrist and Honorary Reader, the University of Manchester

Dr JS Bamrah is a Senior Consultant Psychiatrist in Manchester, and an Honorary Reader at the University of Manchester. Until recently, he was Medical Director at Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust. He holds a Directorship with Apperta Foundation and the British Medical Association (BMA), where he is also a Council Member. JS is the National Chairman of British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin and a trustee of two charitable organisations – LMCP charity for disadvantaged people from the South Asian community, and the African and Caribbean Mental Health Services. JS is the inventor of the ‘Metabolic App’ which is currently undergoing development with support from NHS Digital, Rethink and a grant from Janssen Pharmaceuticals. He has around 40 medical publications and nearly 100 in the tabloid press.  He lectures on a range of subjects nationally and abroad. JS is past Council member and immediate past Director of CPD of Royal College of Psychiatrists. He is past President of the Section of Psychiatry, Manchester Medical Society and past Chair of BMA’s Psychiatric Committee.

Dr Jayasree Kalathil - Founder, Survivor Research

Dr Jayasree KalathilFounder, Survivor Research

Dr Jayasree Kalathil is an independent researcher, writer and psychiatric survivor activist, and runs the virtual collective Survivor Research. Her work focuses on making the experiences, activism and advocacy of mental health service users/survivors from racialised groups an important and integral part of the knowledge about mental health and madness, and the policies and practices within mental health services. Her research focuses on the intersections between ‘race’, racialisation, gender, culture and mental health. She was one of the coordinators of the Inquiry into the Schizophrenia Label and a manager of Catch-a-Fiya, the national network of black and minority ethnic mental health service users and survivors. Currently, she is involved in an international project aiming to map the global history of user-led research, advocacy and activism, based at the Service User Research Enterprise at King’s College, London. Jayasree’s publications include: Dancing to our own tunes: Re-assessing black and minority ethnic mental health service user involvement (2008/2011), Recovery and resilience: African, Caribbean and South Asian women’s narratives of recovering from mental distress (2011), and the co-authored book Values and ethics in mental health (2015).

Dr Rob Berkeley MBE - BBC Adviser

Dr Rob Berkeley MBEBBC Adviser

Dr Rob Berkeley is an award-winning, recovering academic and reformed social reformer. Rob currently advises the BBC on accountability. Impatient with injustice, he volunteers on the boards of the Baring Foundation, Collaborate Foundation and Doc Society, has previously served on the boards of Stonewall, Equality and Diversity Forum and the Oxford Access Scheme, and been Chair of sexual health charity the Naz Project (NPL). He was Director of the Runnymede Trust from 2009 to 2014, and now leads the editorial team of the community journalism platform BlkOutUK.com. Rob was awarded an MBE in 2015 for services to equality. 

Rhiannon England - GP Clinical Lead for Mental Health and Children, City and Hackney CCG

Rhiannon EnglandGP Clinical Lead for Mental Health and Children, City and Hackney CCG

Rhiannon England is a GP and was a partner in a surgery in Hackney, London, for 25 years. During that time she sat on the Board of the local Turkish/Kurdish advocacy group and was active in commissioning advocacy services for primary care. She was the Practice Lead for Mental Health and became interested in the mental health of disadvantaged groups. Her surgery was the first in Hackney to employ Well Family workers through Family Action, providing debt, housing, relationship and family issues advice within the surgery setting. This service is now offered to all Hackney practices. Rhiannon worked in Holloway Prison for three years as a GP during which time she also joined the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). In her prison work, she provided general GP services and substance misuse health care, and gained more experience about the health inequalities for vulnerable people. She was also on the Healthy London Partnership Health in the Criminal Justice System work stream for two years. In her role within the CCG, she is part of a team commissioning innovative mental health services with an overall aim to reduce inequality and to ensure equity of access and service provision uptake for all ethnic groups.

Sarah Hughes - Chief Executive, Centre for Mental Health

Sarah HughesChief Executive, Centre for Mental Health

Sarah Hughes has worked in mental health and criminal justice for 25 years. Having initially trained as a social worker, Sarah has managed a range of innovative community and secure services, most recently at Mind in Cambridgeshire. She also led the research and evaluation of the pioneering First Night in Custody project in Holloway Prison, which saw the roll out of these principles across the prison estate supported by the Cabinet Office. In recent years, Sarah has led Mind in Cambridgeshire, an organisation known for values-led practice and high impact campaigns, including Stop Suicide and StressLess. Sarah is passionate about the mental health of the nation and believes it is possible to achieve parity of esteem by drawing on the amazing work already being undertaken across the country.

Christina Marriott - Chief Executive, Revolving Doors Agency

Christina MarriottChief Executive, Revolving Doors Agency

Currently Chief Executive of Revolving Doors Agency, Christina Marriott has a wide breadth of senior experience in the voluntary, public and private sectors, from frontline service development to influencing national policy through combining communications and research expertise. She has championed the setting of national and organisational strategy through co-production with service users. She is currently a member of the Ministerial Advisory Board on Female Offenders, Co-Chair of the Bradley Report Group and a member of a number of high profile advisory and working groups in criminal justice. She is also a Visitor at the University of Southampton. Christina has led a highly sensitive national census of inpatient mental health services (Count Me In), which was conducted over 320 sites with 35,000 participants, and to the highest ethical approval standards (PIAG, S.60 and NRES). Previously a Senior Research Fellow, Christina was part of the ground-breaking team that delivered a £10M Department of Health peer research project in vulnerable communities. She led a strategic management and organisational change programme, including a number of mixed methods service audits, across a health economy that was showcased by the NHS Leadership Academy as best practice, before becoming NHS England National Lead for Health Inequalities.

Marie Gabriel - Chairperson, East London NHS Foundation Trust

Marie GabrielChairperson, East London NHS Foundation Trust

With over 14 years of NHS Board experience, Marie Garbriel is currently the Chairperson of East London NHS Foundation Trust (ELFT), an ‘Outstanding’ provider of mental health and community health services in London, Bedfordshire and Luton. Recognised nationally for staff engagement and internationally for Quality Improvement, ELFT is working with NHS Improvement and The King’s Fund to support inclusive cultures. Prior to this role, Marie chaired health commissioning organisations with budgets up to £3bn, (NHS East London and the City from 2011; NHS North East London and the City from 2012; and NHS Newham from 2003). Before that she was Vice Chair of Newham University Hospital Trust and was Chair of Newham Community Health Council. Marie currently undertakes a number of wider NHS roles, including chairing the NHS Workforce Race Equality Scheme Strategic Advisory Group and as a member of the NHS Equality and Diversity Council. She has also worked with the NHS Trust Development Agency and the Appointments Commission on furthering Board diversity. Outside of the NHS, Marie took up her first director level role at the age of 23 and subsequently worked for over 20 years in senior executive roles within local government, housing and the third sector. Marie now provides management consultancy for the statutory and third sectors. Marie’s contribution to the London Borough of Newham was recognised in 2010 when she was awarded Honorary Freedom of the borough, and in 2012 her contribution to health was recognised through incorporation onto the Health Service Journal’s inaugural ‘Inspirational Women’ list.