Race inequality and its impact on our NHS workforce, our patients and communities has never been a higher priority for boards. COVID-19, the murder of George Floyd and subsequent antiracism protests have all shone a spotlight on long-standing racial injustices and how profoundly they affect people's lived experience and life chances.
Within the NHS, data from NHS staff survey results, and the Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) have consistently highlighted inequalities in the experiences of ethnic minority staff. Similarly, in our report Race 2.0 Time for real change published earlier this year, only 4% of respondents told us they felt that race equality is fully embedded as a core part of their board's business. There is clearly so much more for us all to do.
Alongside what trusts told us, we also heard, and acknowledged that there is more work to be done within NHS Providers itself. We recognise that we must lead by example to address how structural racism impacts our staff, our culture and processes and all the work we do on behalf of members. Our focus on race equality is a priority within our 4-year strategy – and continues to be a personal priority for me as I lead the organisation over the coming months.
We have already taken some important steps forward. Our internal work over the last year has engaged staff from across the organisation, with an independent review of our data, our policies and processes – and most importantly the experiences of our ethnic minority staff - catalysing often challenging and difficult conversations.
All teams, with support and challenge from our internal Racial Equality and Cultural Inclusion group, have worked together to develop our anti-racism statement and race equality action plan, which we will be publishing in the autumn.
In parallel, we have also developed a support offer for trust boards, based on interviews with members and key stakeholders and a survey of all of our membership. This is being rolled out over the coming year, focusing on three key areas:
- creating hearts and minds change - fostering more safe spaces and authentic forums for discussion to challenge mindsets and share learning
- increasing confidence and capability to act - by bringing attention to good practice case studies including evidence of high impact interventions from within the NHS as well as evidence of what has worked in other sectors
- taking accountability - supporting governors and boards to ask key assurance questions on race equality to help embed race equality as a core part of board business, reducing the double burden on ethnic minority board members of championing race equality whilst also experiencing discrimination, strengthening accountability and proactively calling out discrimination at a national level.
Through a series of resources and events, we will support trusts to have more honest and open conversations about race, based on a recognition that dismantling structural racism doesn't just support our workforce but is a positive indicator for organisational culture and improving patient outcomes as well as reducing health inequalities. We want boards to increase their confidence in the lexicon of race and provide a forum for trust leaders as well as external partners to share evidenced based interventions and discuss how to overcome barriers to change.
Using videos and case studies we will share personal insights of how leaders have used their platform to drive the antiracism agenda within boards and across their organisations, and as a result made improvements to the experiences of their ethnic minority staff as well as patients and service users.
Our webinars and peer learning deep dive sessions will bring together leaders from across our networks as well as subject matter experts to address how specific roles can help embed accountability across the board, as well as link this to other key organisational workstreams including organisational culture, health inequalities and quality improvement.
Our upcoming events include
6 September – Webinar: Building board accountability for WRES
An interactive session with Professor Anton Emmanuel, head of WRES, NHS England, for chairs of workforce and people committees focusing on the role of non-executive directors in looking at WRES beyond the annual compliance and action planning. Book now!
14-15 September – NHS Communicate conference, Diversity in the NHS communications workforce
This online conference for senior NHS communications professionals will include a session where we will explore the topic of Diversity and the workforce of the Future. It will consider how we can address diversity issues within NHS communications teams and whether we are making NHS communications an attractive enough employment opportunity. We will be joined by key note speaker Dr Navina Evans, chief workforce officer, NHS England. You can view the full conference agenda and book your conference place here.
15 September – Can we talk about race?
A deep dive conversation on how leaders are enabling conversations about race in their organisations, fostering safe spaces and developing allyship. This session is open to all Board members. Book now!
15-16 November – NHS Providers Annual Conference, Liverpool, Race Equality: embedding accountability at all levels
This session will focus on the role of NHS regulators including the CQC in embedding race equality. You can view our programme preview and book your conference place here.
Alongside these events we have begun the work to mainstream race equality throughout our other member support programmes including non-executive director inductions, our networks and annual events – and to ensure tackling racial injustice is embedded into our influencing work with the national bodies.
At NHS Providers, we are still early in the journey and I am conscious of how much more progress we need to make and how much there is to do to support members in this shared endeavour. But we have made a commitment to both our members and our staff that we are serious in our ambition to become an actively anti-racist organisation and we are ready to be held to account against this commitment in the months and years ahead.