NHS Providers Anti-racism statement

Who we are

NHS Providers is the membership organisation for the NHS hospital, mental health, community, and ambulance services that treat patients and service users in the NHS. We help those NHS foundation trusts and trusts to deliver high-quality, patient-focused care by enabling them to learn from each other, acting as their public voice and helping shape the system in which they operate.

NHS Providers has all trusts in membership, collectively accounting for £105bn of annual expenditure and employing over one million staff.


Anti-racism at NHS Providers

NHS Providers has committed to becoming an anti-racist organisation. This has been a dedicated area of focus for us since the summer of 2020, following the murder of George Floyd, and the renewed sense of injustice that followed, combined with the racial disparities exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. These events have put race equality on the agenda of NHS boards in a way it has never been before. They have also prompted us to reflect on how racism affects us as an organisation, our staff and our members, and to consider what improvement we need to make and how we can better lead by example. Since then, we have begun an internal programme of work on anti-racism, including commissioning an internal report in autumn 2021 to understand how our culture and systems operate with regards to race equality. This has formed the basis for a series of open, honest and challenging discussions at all levels of the organisation, which in turn have led to the production of a race equality action plan, finalised in summer 2022.

Being actively anti-racist in all that we do means we will acknowledge the impacts of racism in our own organisation, in the NHS and in the world in which our members operate, and be conscious how institutions can perpetuate structural racism. It means we will never tolerate racism where we see it, and we will challenge and proactively change policies, behaviours and beliefs that perpetuate racist ideas and actions. We will do this wherever we can – internally, in our work supporting our members, in how we work with other organisations, and in our external communications. We will benefit as an organisation and our work will improve if we create an open culture in which we celebrate diverse perspectives in everything we do.

This is a top priority and long-term commitment for NHS Providers. We will continue to be tenacious in our work on it.

We recognise that we have been late in taking decisive action on race equality: we have not done enough to support staff who have experienced racism at work and beyond, and who have suffered the effects of structural racism. We apologise for this, and are committed to making the improvements we need to as an organisation, and as individuals. We are a work in progress: we will reflect, we will learn, and we will take action so that we improve. We are committed to doing better and are ready to be held to account for our progress.

Why are we doing this?

We believe NHS Providers must actively tackle racism. This is important for our team, for our member trusts and because of the impact we can have on wider society.

For our team: We must create an environment where every member of staff feels safe and valued, and can thrive. It is the right thing to do by our team. We will benefit as an organisation because welcoming everyone's contributions, perspectives and experiences will give us richer understanding and insight. Becoming an organisation which everyone feels fully part of will help all our colleagues give their best and will make us more effective and happier in our work.

For trusts: We see the impact racism has on patients and trust staff. We recognise that trusts need to do more to tackle racism, just as we do. As their membership organisation we should reflect the issues they are dealing with, and lead by example where we can. We will encourage our members to make progress on race equality

For wider society: Our organisation exists to support the NHS, a huge and diverse employer which has contact with everyone in our society. We represent the NHS in the media and in our engagement with government and other partners. We know that there are wide disparities in health outcomes and life expectancy between different ethnic groups, and there is strong evidence of their differential access to and experience of services. We therefore have a responsibility to use our profile and influence to make a difference to the world we live in.

Our anti-racism statement

To underpin our work, we have chosen to set out, clearly and simply, what we mean when we say we are an anti-racist organisation. This sits alongside our organisational values and action plan for improvement on race equality. It is not a static statement: we expect to update it over time.

This is our statement to members, staff, and the wider community of our commitment to becoming actively anti-racist.

Each and every member of staff shares this commitment and takes personal responsibility for it.

Our five commitments

1. We will recognise that structural racism exists and is harmful

Race inequality is a blight on our society. The effects of racism can be seen across society, in the NHS and also at NHS Providers.

At the moment, NHS Providers reflects the inequalities seen across the NHS workforce, trusts, and wider society in too many ways. Our senior leadership team does not reflect the diversity within either our organisation or wider society. Although broadly positive overall, our 2021 staff survey results show ethnic minority* staff are less likely to say they feel valued, and less likely to say NHS Providers champions diversity and seeks out different viewpoints. At the moment we are disproportionately led by white people. It is therefore incumbent upon white people in leadership positions at NHS Providers to be effective allies: to understand how they have benefitted from structural racism, to own the problem and to use the advantages, opportunities and resources they hold to tackle it.

As we seek to improve the experience of our staff, we will recognise that some will suffer discrimination on several fronts, including race, socio-economic status, and other characteristics protected under the Equality Act. In our work we will acknowledge the relationship between race and our wider commitment to equality and inclusion across the full range of factors that shape people's life chances and lived experience.

2. We will acknowledge the impact of racism and we will support ethnic minority staff

Every member of staff at NHS Providers is committed to supporting ethnic minority staff to ensure the burden of tackling racism does not fall on those who already experience its injustices.

We know from staff feedback that people have not always spoken up because they did not feel supported. This has compounded the hurt and distress felt by our colleagues who have experienced racism.

Guided by our staff and our race equality and cultural inclusion group (RECI), we will nurture a culture that gives people the time and space to speak up about their experiences confident that they will be listened to and supported. We will ensure people will be safe, and feel safe, in talking openly about racism and race inequality. All colleagues at NHS Providers, whatever their ethnicity stand shoulder to shoulder on this: improving our culture is the responsibility of everyone in NHS Providers.

3. We will act to redress racism and call out discrimination

We will seek out, identify, and redress racism and strive for equality, and justice, and embed this thinking in all our processes, policies, outputs, and interactions.

This will mean actively drawing attention to and calling out discrimination where we find it within NHS Providers and tackling it, and explaining why remarks or actions are harmful. It will mean listening with commitment to learning and change when someone speaks up about their experience of racism. Where someone shares their experience we will focus on their needs, and recognise where we hold power and can act to bring improvements. And, it will mean examining our recruitment processes and our approach to progression within the organisation and will involve making sure our events and publications live up to the standards of diversity we are aiming for.

Our race equality and cultural inclusion group (RECI) has an important role in highlighting issues to the organisation as a whole, and advising and challenging our leadership. Equally, our leaders have a responsibility to listen and act on issues when they are raised.

We will do this from a position of humility and in the spirit of supporting one another, understanding that as an organisation and as individuals none of us are perfect, we all want to get this right, and we all have much to learn.

4. We will be transparent and accountable, and we will measure our progress

We will be open and honest about our progress on race equality, and we will set measurable goals against which our progress can be judged.

Our goals will be based on the feedback from staff and our board and will include qualitative and quantitative measures. We have produced and agreed upon an action plan that sets out in detail how we will deliver on our commitment.

Our board of trustees is responsible for ensuring NHS Providers is an anti-racist organisation. It will hold the executive management team to account for delivery on the action plan and has committed to embedding anti-racism into its own structures, processes and decision making.

The director team will also work to embed race equality into its decision making, processes and structures and will hold the organisation to account for implementation of the action plan. We will also continue to measure and monitor progress via our annual staff survey, which began collecting anonymised data on race equality in 2021, along with regular consultations and conversations carried out through the year, including via RECI.

We will welcome scrutiny, feedback and challenge from staff and from our members.

We will keep this statement under review alongside quarterly reviews of our action plan, for the remainder of our four-year strategy period.

5. We will use our unique position to influence the NHS and the wider community.

NHS Providers has an opportunity and a responsibility to make a positive difference on race equality in the NHS and beyond.

As the membership organisation for NHS trusts and foundation trusts, we are uniquely placed to support NHS leaders to make progress on race equality. Through our race equality programme  and our action plan, we will help boards take action against structural racism within their own organisations and address gaps and challenges in their working cultures that are impacting on staff, patients and the communities they serve. We will embed race equality throughout all our networks and events, induction programmes and member communications, and aspire to lead by example.

We can and will advocate for race equality through our influencing work, which puts us in regular contact with the most senior leaders in government and in the wider health and care sector. We will use our position to influence national health policy from an anti-racist standpoint – this will include offering constructive challenge when necessary. And, through our public communications, we will highlight race inequality and challenge racism where we see it.

*As per the Gov.uk style guide we use 'ethnic minority' to refer to all ethnic groups except the white British group.