Kate North cares passionately about equality and diversity, and improving opportunities for those in minority groups. So much so, she has devoted her career to promoting inclusion.

Working for the NHS in Cumbria, she heads a team dedicated to raising awareness and breaking down barriers.

She said to her it is about making sure everyone - whatever their ethnic group, gender, sexual orientation, religion or ability - has the same opportunities, without discrimination.

Part of her work has been to encourage NHS staff to become inclusion champions - with over 60 of these now working across the Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust. She also teams up with local organisations to promote equality and diversity in the community.

Kate's work has been recognised locally, so much so that she was last night due to attend the Diverse Cumbria Awards, where she was shortlisted in the public sector champion category.

"I'm hugely passionate about inclusion. To me it's about trying to promote opportunities within the NHS to our communities, and also understanding how we can engage better.

"The reason why I am saying inclusion is important. Everyone knows what equality and diversity is. It's about fairness and everyone having the same opportunity, and celebrating our differences. As a world we are diverse, and that's fantastic," she said.

"Inclusion is about taking it that step further. If you have a cinema and all the seats are the same and everyone has the same view that's great, it's equal and fair. But what if you are small? For that person it's suddenly not fair. Inclusion is saying how can you participate for who you are, and what can we do to help make that happen."

Kate started her career in human resources, spending 20 years at Cumbria County Council, including social care.

"I'd always been interested in diversity and equality. Working in HR I naturally gravitated towards issues of fairness and equality. That really ignited my passion," she said.

"This job came up in the NHS nearly three years ago. You don't get many opportunities like this. Being able to do what I love and have a passion for is like a dream for me really."

Kate's title is head of workforce futures and inclusion. It combines her EDI (equality, diversity and inclusion) role with workforce planning, and she said the two sit hand in hand.

She said part of it is to ensure the trusts comply with various equality laws, but it also goes much further than that.

Kate said the part she enjoys most is linking up with the wider community, attending events like the local Unity festivals and Cumbria Pride to fly the NHS flag.

There are various groups she's helped set up, each looking at different areas of inclusion. That includes black and minority ethnic (BME) groups, the LGBT community and those with disabilities.

She has also built links with the travelling community and has recently been involved in welcoming Syrian refugees to Cumbria.

Kate also helps staff who come to work her from abroad to settle in the UK and build local links, as well as supporting those leaving the armed forces and want to transfer their skills to the NHS.

She attends recruitment fairs, works on equality and diversity policies within the local trusts and attends conferences, such as the recent inclusion conference in Morecambe Bay.

Recently she travelled to a EDI event at the House of Lords, where she met Lord Blunket and Peter Cheese.

Kate has also introduced rainbow lanyards for staff who have a passion for equality, diversity and inclusion to wear.

She said having someone in post who is dedicated to the inclusion agenda has really helped the trusts to progress their good work, and she now heads a team of three as their role grows.

Recently, she was delighted to see senior managers publicly commit to EDI, and believes the future is bright for the county.

"There's some incredible work going on around Cumbria. There are some great organisations and inspiring individuals

"It's not always obvious, but Cumbria is a diverse place. That's something to really celebrate," she added.

Health chiefs make pledge on equality, diversity and inclusion

Stephen Eames, chief executive of CPFT and NCUH,: “I wanted to say a few words about our ambitions for an inclusive workforce, representative of the wonderful communities that we serve to provide the best possible quality of care for our patients.

"Whilst recognising difference and individuality, we will value and respect every patient, carer, volunteer and employee.

Michael Smillie, director of finance & strategy at CPFT and NCUH: “Over the next 12 months, be working together with our growing number of equality, diversity and inclusion representatives and staff networks to understand and overcome the barriers for people accessing services and to progressing careers in the NHS.

"Ensuring our services are as diverse as the vibrant communities we serve and truly welcoming to all is vital for us to foster a culture of opportunity for everyone."