NHS takes action to tackle race inequality across the workforce

Posted on Fri 1 Aug 2014

NHS takes action to tackle race inequality across the workforce
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The Equality and Diversity Council have announced action to ensure employees from black and ethnic minority backgrounds have equal access to career opportunities and fair treatment in the workplace.

The move follows recent reports which have highlighted disparities in the number of black and minority ethnic people in senior leadership positions across the NHS.

The Race Equality Foundation has been a member of the Equality and Diversity Council since its establishment in 2008, acting as a representative for the Department of Health's voluntary and community sector Strategic Partners alongside leading NHS and social care national bodies.

The Council today pledged their commitment, subject to consultation, to a race equality standard across the NHS for the first time, which would start in April 2015. The standard would require organisations to demonstrate progress against seven indicators of workforce equality. Commissioners and regulators would be able to use the standard to hold organisations to account – the standard could apply to organisations employing almost all of the 1.4 million NHS workforce. 

Currently, there is a system in place to promote and improve equality for all groups - the Equality Delivery System (EDS2). The Council decided to consult on whether this system should also be made compulsory.  

The national bodies on the EDC, which include NHS England, Monitor, the Care Quality Commission and the NHS Trust Development Authority, pledged to set themselves an early challenge of adoption, to ensure that both providers and commissioners commit to implementing the Race Equality Standard together.  

The EDC is committed to promote equality for all, ensuring no one is left behind.  It also plans to initiate work to advance equality for other groups protected by the Equality Act.

As part of the consultation on the 2015/16 standard NHS contract, NHS England will now propose using its contracting powers to implement the new standard. The regulators – Care Quality Commission and Monitor – will also consider using the standard to help assess whether organisations are ‘well-led’.  

Jabeer Butt, Deputy Chief of the Race Equality Foundation said: “We welcome this commitment to race equality at the national level.  Our research shows that inequalities continue to exist in the NHS workforce, leading to negative outcomes for staff and patients alike.  A race equality standard will help to tackle these inequalities, leading to higher morale amongst staff members, a stronger understanding of the needs of diverse communities, and ultimately, better care for patients.

Roger Kline, Research Fellow at Middlesex University Business School and author of ‘Snowy White Peaks of the NHS’ said: “The EDC has recognised the link between the treatment of BME staff and  the quality of patient care and understands the importance of boards representing the diverse communities they serve. 

“This proposal to implement a new standard is exactly the kind of decisive action we need to drive improvements and address inequalities across the sector. This innovative approach could have an extremely powerful impact for staff and patients alike, and has the potential to change the face of the NHS.”

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