Ensuring the safety of staff is an absolute priority for trust leaders. This is a particular concern for those who are at increased risk, and we know that COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. Trusts have done important and necessary work to ensure they are protecting their Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff and going forward, it is vital we all understand fully what lies behind these increased risks and how best to confront them.
NHS Providers recognise that the term ‘Black, Asian and minority ethnic’ can be seen as a reductive grouping of a diverse proportion of the population and can be unhelpful when considering the best ways to tackle systemic racism. For now, however, we will be using this this term but in full, and not shortening Black, Asian and minority ethnic to the acronym BAME.
Recognising the particular needs of this group, the Black, Asian and minority ethnic COVID lead and Freedom to Speak Up guardian co-ordinated a listening event. The themes of the discussion were fed back to trust board and from this a Black, Asian and minority ethnic network was established. From the specific feedback from the Black, Asian and minority ethnic survey, the trust offered Vitamin D testing to all staff as a direct action.
Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (SASH) wanted to ensure all its 5,000 staff felt safe. Around a third of staff at SASH are from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds and when evidence began emerging of the disproportionate impact on people from these backgrounds, the trust recognised the importance of increasing support to these members of staff.
Having established a Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff network a number of years ago, SASH was able to increase support swiftly. Early risk assessments were made available for vulnerable staff. This included the chief executive writing to all staff from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds prior to offering all staff formal risk assessments. SASH hosted a number of socially distanced peer-to-peer, drop-in sessions with Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff to discuss concerns and talk to experts face-to-face. The feedback also led to specific changes, such as offering tailored communications for staff who do not speak English as a first language, as a number of staff from estates and facilities fed back that the guidance was hard to digest quickly when English was a second language. SASH therefore created visual action cards to ensure porters and housekeepers were able to quickly stay up to date with the rapidly changing guidance. A short video testimonial about the action cards is available here.
SASH also has a dedicated WhatsApp group to keep staff who do not speak English as a first language informed of support, while it has also set up English as a second language classes to boost confidence in communication. In addition, the trust has trained around 30 staff to offer immediate peer to peer support to colleagues after challenging experiences. The critical incident stress management team can be contacted via an online portal and are trained to provide initial support and signposting.
Supporting all of their staff during this difficult time is a priority for the South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust, but they also have put in place a number of additional measures to ensure that they continue to provide additional support and guidance to their more vulnerable members of staff, in particular our Black, Asian and minority ethnic colleagues.
Over the last six months the trust have worked with our established network representing Black, Asian and minority ethnic colleagues to develop a series of Q&A webinars in which executive directors were invited to answer questions and understand the challenges faced by staff members from these backgrounds. In addition to these sessions, they also held virtual chief executive conversations around Black Lives Matter equalities, which all staff were encouraged to join. Following each session, the trust wrote to all staff, with targeted messages to Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff, about inequalities faced by colleagues of these backgrounds around COVID, as well as other matters, and made support available including our Freedom to Speak Up service.
During the pandemic, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust has aspired to be innovative, responsive and compassionate to support Black, Asian and minority ethnic members of staff who were at a heightened risk.
With leadership support and commitment, new committees were established, including:
The officers of the Black, Asian and minority ethnic network and Black, Asian and minority ethnic shared governance group attended senior leadership committees: COVID-19 management board, people and culture committee.
In advance of the Public Health England and NHS England and Improvement risk assessment, we issued communications and risk assessing asap, soon after surveying Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff on whether they had received one with their line manager. Post feedback we redoubled efforts ensuring mandatory completion. Our estates and facilities directorate were extremely responsive to concerns from Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff working as domestics and food service assistants in relation to COVID-19 risk assessments, resulting in a 100% completion rate prior to national reporting requirements. To raise awareness, the Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff network organised Black, Asian and minority ethnic network webinars and a Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff event through MS Teams. Links were also established with regional and national NHS England and NHS Improvement and Black, Asian and minority ethnic regional network teams.
Additional work to ensure a safety, inclusion and wellbeing included a suite of staff health and wellbeing resources, wellbeing and wobble rooms, decompression spaces, mindfulness, psychological specialist support (with prioritised appointments offered to Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff), the production of a Vitamin D, obesity and COVID-19 leaflet, the provision and access to a dedicated special bereavement and trauma hotline for Filipino staff, and a dedicated intranet page and external webpage with inclusive translated information on coronavirus for staff where English is not their first language.