Case study: The RACE Equality Code at The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust and Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust

Improving race equality, education, and awareness

The RACE Equality Code is an accountability framework developed by Dr Karl George MB. In 2021, The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust (RWT) became the first trust in the Black Country to achieve The RACE Equality Code Charter Mark, followed shortly by Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust (WHT). Both trusts are accredited until May 2024.

Junior Hemans, non-executive director (NED) at RWT and WHT, shares how adopting The RACE Equality Code helped the trusts address workforce inequalities. He provides examples of how adoption has supported a cultural shift, with managers being more open to having conversations about race and showing a greater appetite to learn more about different cultures and diversity of the workforce.

This case study will examine:

  1. The challenge
  2. Action and accountability
  3. Impact
  4. Specific learning for the board
  5. Next steps

The challenge

RWT and WHT operate within the Black Country integrated care system (ICS), where they have sovereign boards, with three in-common board members. Together, these trusts identified inequalities relating to workforce experience based on race. Data collected as part of the annual Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) highlighted that ethnic minority staff were twice as likely as white staff to be taken through a formal disciplinary process and were not equitably represented at all levels of the organisation. Ethnic minority representation across the two trusts stood at 32%, whilst senior management representation and board representation were 19% and 13% respectively (Spotlight on…The Race Equality Code).

Action and accountability

Prompted by their own WRES data, the RWT and WHT boards prioritised reducing disparity within the disciplinary process, inequality within recruitment, and talent management for ethnic minority staff. Alongside this, they started to apply an anti-racist lens to their work on bullying and harassment - ensuring race equality underpinned their This programme will be in line with their toolkit that look at values, bystander and restorative culture, and inclusion – 'having inclusive conversation in the workplace'.

Both trusts agreed to adopt The RACE Equality Code, which is based on four key principles: reporting, action, composition, and education. 

Working in partnership, the two trusts focused initially on education to support improved awareness and understanding of race equality. Interventions that were implemented across RWT and WHT included:

  • delivering cultural competency workshops to staff across various disciplines with a 'train the trainer' model developed to support sustainability of the programme
  • delivering 'how to be an effective ally' training to HR and Organisational Development (OD) teams across both trusts
  • developing and disseminating five anti-racism resource packs, containing a series of videos, resources, and recommended reading for all line managers
  • recruiting and training 27 new 'cultural ambassadors' - a programme developed by the Royal College of Nursing to support employee relations processes within NHS organisations e.g. being part of investigation teams and disciplinary hearing panels
  • governance, regulatory frameworks and mechanisms are in place and assurances are provided re discharging of equality duties
  • launching a 'positive action in recruitment' initiative, ensuring all band seven vacancies in nursing and midwifery have a cultural ambassador on the panel
  • running a reverse mentoring scheme for executive board members
  • launching a trust-wide 'civility and respect programme'
  • launching a 'zero tolerance to racism campaign' with guidance for managers and patients.


WHT have developed resources to support the onboarding of newly arrived internationally educated nurses (IENs). Award manager now reviews the onboarding processes for newly arrived IENs. There are educational and coaching packages to support and improve cultural awareness of existing staff. There is additional mentorship for IENs to ensure they successfully pass their Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCE) and receive their NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council) Pin.

As a result of work on the onboarding processes for newly arrived IENs, WHT IENs are received into a welcoming and supportive multi-disciplinary team, with an increased level of cultural awareness and with appropriate pastoral support.

At RWT, the Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) unit has unit led the way in developing an anti-racist service by adopting the learning from The RACE Equality Code. This included:

  • designing and running their own anti-racism awareness training for every team member
  • co-producing an anti-racism statement for their team actively looking at their team race equality data
  • developing staff to take up leadership opportunities.

Staff at RWT’s SLT unit reported feeling better supported and empowered, and in turn being able to tackle and address the challenges of racism.

Divisional directors at WHT and RWT at the Women and Children’s and Clinical Support Services division established a divisional talent forum focused on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) interventions to support the workforce. These interventions were led by their respective EDI officers. Progress of the interventions were monitored via a project oversight team at each trust. Membership of these teams included the chief people officer, director of people, EDI officer and the NED who chaired the People and Organisation Development (POD) committee. The chair of the POD committee was also a board member across the two trusts, providing additional insight and shared learning. Dr Karl George from the Race Code was regularly invited to attend meetings to support implementation of the interventions and to provide advice, guidance, and challenge. This paired with reports on progress to the POD committees and trust boards allowed for sustainable actions and accountability.

Divisional directors across RWT and WHT have shown an improved focus on addressing inequality. They now regularly attend POD committees to share the impact and learning from local interventions. 

Specific learning for the board

A large part of the success of the work done was because boards at RWT and WHT were actively engaged via specific board development sessions. They reflected that being honest in their self-assessment was challenging but necessary to ensure that the exercise was not a "tick-box". This enabled them to identify initiatives that further supported their People Plan. The boards learnt that honesty and reflection are key to developing a commitment towards addressing the concerns shared by staff.

Next steps

Embedding learning and progress on race equality across both trusts is ongoing. Their next steps include:

  • developing an organisation-wide anti-racist culture and vision for all staff
  • continuing education and training for staff through race fluency workshops and inclusive leadership training for senior leaders and managers
  • promoting a culture of psychological safety, where staff feel safe to speak up about race equality issues and concerns
  • creating a workforce that is representative at all levels of the organisation.


For more information about The Race Code visit the website.

To find out more about the NHS Providers race equality programme see the programme page here or contact the Race Equality programme team.