WORKFORCE: The mental health FT has been selected as a member of the Department of Health’s “trust reference group” on equality and diversity.

It will work at a strategic level with the Department of Health and the Equality and Diversity Council – a group of about 25 relevant organisations, chaired by NHS Chief Executive Sir David Nicholson, which provides support to help the NHS deliver fairer services.

Ray Warburton, senior team leader with the DH’s NHS Equality Teams, said: “The trust will be working in partnership with us to develop the Equality Delivery System, which will support NHS organisations delivery on the Equality Act.

“The trust will also be a member of the reference group acting in an advisory capacity for the Reducing Health Inequalities and Promoting Equality Workstream, which has been set up to shape equality for the future NHS Commissioning Board.

“The Department of Health are looking forward to working with the trust due to its commitment, wealth of expertise and knowledge in the area of equality.”

Surrey and Borders had originally applied to become one of NHS Employers’ 13 equality and diversity partners, which were selected to share good practice, learning and expertise in the context of human resources.

However, it and three other trusts – Leicestershire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, and Leeds Partnership NHS Foundation Trust – were seen as having sufficient experience in the area of diversity and quality already that they should be used at a national level.

Professor Carol Baxter, head of equality, diversity and human rights at NHS Employers, said: “Instead of offering partner status, we have agreed with the Department of Health that this trust’s experience and expertise would better utilised at a national level in some of the challenging and critical commissioner and provider work streams – aligned to the work of the Equality and Diversity Council.”

Surrey and Borders Partnership recently completed a three-year pilot for the national Pacesetters programme, embarking on 10 initiatives designed to remove healthcare inequalities and discrimination.

The trust has also been involved in Delivering Racial Equality in Mental Health, a five year project to improve access to mental health services for people from black or minority ethnic backgrounds.