This is not a blog about budget cuts, the challenge presented by an ageing population or the threat posed by the private sector. This is a blog about values, passion and inspiration.
My passion is equality. It seems to me that equality is what the public sector is all about. It is the emphasis on the moral case for equality rather than the legal or business case that makes the public sector different from the private sector, the not for profit sector and the voluntary sector.
For me it is obvious - get equality and diversity right and all else follows. If equality and diversity in recruitment is right you will have a workforce that reflects the diverse population you serve. If you recruit people who do not all come from the same background, hold the same beliefs and think in the same way you are more likely to have the creativity and insight to respond to the challenges of providing services to a diverse population. You are more likely to be customer focused if your staff recognise different sections of the community want their needs met in different ways and you are more likely to have people who can think of different ways of meeting needs.
Staff who are customer focused quickly realise you need a range of providers and services to meet the needs of a diverse population. That means working with a range of partners. If you get equality and diversity right, you will have developed your listening skills as an organisation and so you will have the right approach to engage communities and work in partnership. Such skills will stand the organisation in good stead for promoting health equality.
Meeting the really big challenges means radically changing the way people behave in the organisation. It means engaging staff at every level in doing things differently and it requires people to be inspired. League tables have limited motivational appeal, so does saving money. Claiming the customer is king is hard to maintain in the face of hospital closures, cuts in services or admitting someone into a psychiatric ward against their wishes. And despite the traditional emphasis on charismatic leadership, frontline staff don’t do it for the chief executive. In fact, in the public sector, staff tell us in staff surveys they don’t trust senior managers, they don’t do it for the money, they do it for the people they serve and they do it because they want to make a difference. The challenge is to maintain this public sector ethos when services are contracted out to the private sector. The challenge is to maintain this sense of commitment to the general good rather than the bottom line. The challenge is to do this at the same time as the public sector is adopting many of the methods and much of the language of business. What better/clearer way of doing this than focusing on fairness - because that’s what equality and diversity is all about. Fairness in how we recruit people, fairness in how we select people for promotion, fairness in how we treat people at work, fairness in how we allocate scarce resources and fairness in how we provide services. Fairness is relevant, fairness inspires.