NHS workforce: promoting utopian thinking on race equality standards

The NHS’s Chief People Officer, Prerana Issar says NHS organisations “need to do more” and “at pace” to improve workforce race inequality. Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff constitute almost a fifth of the total NHS workforce, yet they are still more likely to face unfair treatment and discrimination in the workplace.

In new guidance, published on 3 July, NHS England and NHS Improvement’s NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard strategy: A fair experience for all: Closing the ethnicity gap in rates of disciplinary action across the NHS workforce presents the NHS with the opportunity to make a real difference in this area.

The document is described as an evolving guide to help support local commissioner and provider practices in promoting workforce race equality. The focus is to reduce the disproportionate ethnicity gap in entry into the formal disciplinary process – and to reduce the overall rate of unnecessary disciplinary action across the NHS.

“Stretching but achievable goals” for the NHS by 2022

A set of national aspirational goals have been set for the “expected rate of improvement” in closing the gap in the likelihood of BAME and white staff entering the formal disciplinary process within NHS trusts for 2020, 2021 and 2022. These national goals relate to all NHS trusts, CCGs and national healthcare arm’s length bodies.

Supporting the delivery of this ambition, the guidance is upon both sharing good practice, as well as supporting the transformation of cultures within organisations to those that are underpinned by learning and compassion. In addition, the guidance reiterates NHSE/I’s recommendations released last month that all NHS boards should consider how they oversee investigations and disciplinary procedures following the Amin Abdullah case.

Stepping up interventions to leverage improvement

The guidance has outlined a helpful set of interventions, but good leadership, accountability and a person-centred approach with a focus on safeguarding people’s health and well-being will help the NHS community reach the “goal of a fully inclusive and fair NHS for all staff”.

Progress in this area will be published as part of the annual WRES data collection and publication.

A key step for all NHS employers is to train and support managers in identifying and resolving workplace issues before they escalate, underpinned by an understanding of wider cultural approaches.

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