The NHS England Workforce Race Equality Standard team is working with HSJ to increase diversity in all aspects of the HSJ awards, notes Dr Habib Naqvi

The NHS has, for decades, depended on the incredible talents of people from across the country and those that have come from overseas to devote their professional careers in caring for others. One in five of all staff in the NHS today is of a black and minority ethnic origin.

Yet we know that the experiences and lack of opportunities that they often encounter in the workplace do not always correspond with the values upon which the NHS proudly stands.

Inclusion agenda

This is not just an issue of diversity but also of inclusion; the health service is diverse but we see very few visible BME role models at senior leadership levels in our organisations. 

Making change on the workplace inclusion agenda is challenging and, despite much good intention and will, never easy. However, as with anything that needs to change and improve, evidence is important.

Celebrating the success and contribution of BME staff in the NHS is one of the critical enablers in improving workforce race equality.

Appreciation is a fundamental human need. Employees respond to appreciation expressed through recognition of their good work because it confirms their work is valued by others.

When employees and their work are valued, their satisfaction and productivity rises, and they are motivated to maintain or further improve their good work.

This is critical in the NHS for two key reasons. First, because appreciative staff are appreciated staff – we know that cared for staff are more likely to care for others, and in no other sector is this relationship more important than in the health sector where patient satisfaction, outcomes and safety are what matter most.

Second, we know that when staff are engaged, supported and recognised, absenteeism decreases and organisational efficiency increases. In fact, staff engagement is not only good for employees’ health, but also helps organisations with their budget pressures, for example reducing reliance on agency and bank staffing. 

There is, therefore, a clear need to increase staff engagement, including via recognising and celebrating the significant contributions that they make. In this context, there are two aspects to employee recognition:

  1. Identify or realise an opportunity to praise someone. If you are not in a receptive frame of mind you can easily pass over many such opportunities.

  2. Undertake the physical act of doing something to acknowledge and praise people for their good work and contribution.

The NHS England Workforce Race Equality Standard team is working collaboratively with HSJ to increase diversity in all aspects of the prestigious HSJ awards.

There is no doubt that, for many, winning an HSJ award is a high-valued and prestigious recognition; previous winners have described a sense of pride among their workforce and have increased the pace of organisational improvement and achievement as a result.

The awards strive to produce a roll call of the best organisations, teams and people in the NHS and the wider health sector.

As part of that process, we are actively encouraging organisations and individuals to identify from the huge reservoir of BME talent that exists across the NHS, and which may often be overlooked.

We are also tapping into the BME workforce, including those that have undertaken the educational WRES experts programme, to sit on the HSJ award judging panels – helping to ensure the most inclusive, fair and transparent judging process.

The social change we seek to achieve on workforce race equality is not change for political correctness; there are clear moral, financial and, most importantly, quality of patient care cases for change.

Now is the time to move from the rhetoric of inclusion and respect to demonstrating these core values in reality.