Making the NHS a fair, open, supportive and respectful workplace is a crucial to achieving NHS England’s vision of high quality care for all, writes Jane Cummings
“Diversity” is a word often heard these days, but what does it mean in practice for the NHS and its workforce?
Research shows that diverse teams and leadership are innovative and productive, and that healthcare staff who are cared for, care better for patients. For example, research carried out for Macmillan Cancer Support by the Picker Institute shows that in those hospital trusts where clinical staff report the highest levels of discrimination, cancer patients are up to 18 times more likely to report a poor quality experience during their hospital stay compared with trusts with the lowest levels of discrimination.
‘We are all guests in the lives of the people we serve, and we need to work closer with communities’
For me, the importance and value of diversity was brought home by two events I attended recently.
At the “What a Journey – Caribbean Nurses and the NHS” exhibition in Hackney I heard moving stories from women who came to England from the Caribbean to train and work as nurses supporting the NHS and its patients.
These powerful examples demonstrated the “6Cs” (care, compassion, competence, communication, courage and commitment) in action; especially the courage and commitment shown to cope with racial abuse and still provide excellent care.
- Change at the top is yet to peak
- Bankers: the unlikely role models for NHS diversity
- Root out inequality in breast cancer care
- HSJ’s BME Pioneers 2014 are revealed tonight at 7.30pm
Serving our communities
Similarity is not required for the exercise of compassion. My colleagues and I in today’s NHS, and the patients and families we care for, owe a debt of gratitude to these nurses. Their legacy brings to mind Sir Isaac Newton’s words: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Last month I was joined by Simon Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive, in speaking at a conference for my BME Advisory Group. In his speech, Simon said that we are all guests in the lives of the people we serve, and that we need to work closer with the communities we serve in the coming years.
Modern Britain is made up of racially diverse communities and patients. For example, 48 per cent of the population in London is from BME backgrounds. If the NHS is to have a sustainable workforce that is fit for the present, the future and serves its communities, BME staff need to be a full and valued part of that.
In July the NHS Equality and Diversity Council announced its support for two measures so that BME employees have equal opportunities and treatment in their careers. One is the proposed workforce race equality standard, which consists of seven metrics within which the differences between the treatment and experience of white and BME staff are expected to be the same.
The three staff survey indicators are:
• The difference between the percentage of white staff and the percentage of BME staff experiencing harassment, bullying or abuse from staff in the last 12 months.
• The difference between the percentage of white staff and the percentage of BME staff believing their trust provides equal opportunities for career progression or promotion.
• The difference between the percentgae of white staff and the percentage of BME staff experiencing discrimination at work in the last 12 months.
The four workforce indicators (which may already possibly be collected through the Eqaulity Delivery System 2) are:
• The ratio of BME staff on grades 8C-9 compared to the ratio of BME staff in all grades.
• The likelihood of shortlisted BME applicants being appointed compared to white applicants.
• The likelihood of BME staff entering the disciplinary process compared to white staff.
• Access to non-mandatory training and continuing professional development.
More than a word
Additionally, the race equality standard proposes that the extent to which a board’s composition reflects the local population will be monitored.
‘We want our current and future staff to experience a fair, open, supportive and respectful organisation’
The NHS will also be consulted on whether the EDS2 toolkit should become mandatory. The updated equality delivery system aims to help organisations improve services provided for local communities and provide better working environments.
Within the health service, everyone counts in helping us to create a diverse, patient focused organisation. We want our current and future staff to experience a fair, open, supportive and respectful organisation. Diversity is more than a word: it is a fundamental part of NHS England’s vision to achieve high quality care for all, now and for future generations.
Jane Cummings is chief nursing officer at NHS England