NHS South East Coast is spending 200,000 on equality and diversity networks in every trust following a damning review into barriers faced by the region’s black and minority ethnic staff.

The funds come amid an ongoing battle between the strategic health authority and the region’s BME network, which in August published findings revealing the level of bullying, grievances and disciplinaries involving BME staff.

Sue Webb, the SHA’s director of clinical and workforce development, said the review had helped “accelerate” diversity work.

She said: “The review highlighted some very significant challenges which we have taken on board.”

The SHA has used the findings to identify glass ceilings and carry out work around bullying and harassment cases and health inequalities.

Low representation

It has developed a workforce profiling tool to analyse the low representation of BME staff in senior positions. A review of trusts’ progress has been commissioned and is expected to show “encouraging” results, Ms Webb said.

The SHA has “refreshed” its equality and diversity steering group and widened membership to include experts on race, gender and spiritual issues. It has also appointed two equality leads.

But the decision to work with equality and diversity leads in each organisation was “not directly as a result of the review”, Ms Webb said.

The money is aimed at existing networks in organisations in the region and to set up new ones.

HSJ has seen correspondence from Ms Morris to South East Coast BME Network chair Vivienne Lyfar-Cisse calling the response from trusts provoked by the review an “unnecessary distraction”.

Local challenge

Ms Morris wrote: “I urge you to give careful consideration to this ethos of collaborative partnership working to avoid a repetition of challenge from local employers, similar to that faced when you published the BME Race Equality Service Review.

“Such challenge acts as an unnecessary distraction from our mutual goal to bring about substantial improvements in race equality.”

An SHA spokeswoman said it had not yet been decided whether the network would continue to receive funding in 2009-10.

Ms Morris said: “We want to create a shared culture of equality and human rights [because] everyone wants to work in organisations where they feel they can positively contribute.”