Health Service Focus

01.08.17

Continuing to shine a light on workforce race equality

Source: NHE Jul/Aug 2017

Yvonne Coghill OBE, NHS England’s director, Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) Implementation, explains that we need to celebrate that the health service wants to embrace and tackle the difficult race equality agenda.

“One of the diseases of the health service is that we make great speeches to each other, but we don’t look in the mirror. Not walking the walk is not only denying opportunities from the BME community, it is denying an opportunity for the NHS to deliver the things it talks about to the patients and citizens it serves. 

“Workforce race equality is right in itself, it is fundamental to the delivery of good healthcare wherever we are delivering it, and it is essential to delivering accessible healthcare that serves communities around the UK. That is why we must hold up the mirror. We must confront what the mirror tells us.” 

These were the words of Stephen Dorrell, the former health secretary and NHS Confederation chair, speaking at a lunch discussion during Confed17, alongside Sir Andrew Cash, CEO of Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS FT, and Yvonne Coghill OBE, NHS England’s director, WRES Implementation. 

The audience at the meeting was half white and half non-white, highlighting the progress that is being made on this agenda. Previously, it would have been an all-black audience talking to each other, Coghill noted. However, the question was asked: “How do we get those not in the room, in here?” 

Coghill reflected that the WRES has been in the NHS for two years, and “we have made sure the NHS is fully aware of this. We need to celebrate that the NHS wants to embrace this really difficult agenda”. 

After a long career in the NHS, she said it is well understood that the race equality problem is global, systemic and hard to shift. Even this year’s latest WRES report highlighted that white job applicants are over 1.5 times more likely to be appointed from shortlisting than BME applicants, and the more senior the pay grade, the less likely it will be filled by BME staff. 

“But it is not just an NHS problem,” noted Coghill. “It is a problem we all have to face across the white-dominated globe. People might not like that term, but it is the truth. People from ethnic backgrounds, people of colour across the world, are struggling with the thing we are trying to deal with today.” 

During the session, delegates were told that moving race equality in the right direction is about pulling together what works across multiple organisations. And in order to deliver an evidence-based approach to implementation, Coghill stated that there are six key criteria: demonstrative leadership and direction; mandatory metrics/accountability; consistent and persistent messages; resources; role models; and celebrating and highlighting successes. 

She added that health bodies, such as Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS FT, are extremely “brave and courageous” because, despite the trust knowing that some of the data wasn’t the best, “they invited me in to shine a light on what was going on in the organisation in and around race equality”. 

“What we have been doing is drilling down into the data. That demonstrable leadership, that demonstrable direction is absolutely fundamental and key to the process,” said Coghill. “It isn’t about people saying it, it is about what people, like Sir Andrew, have done, as his organisation is doing it.

“With regards to mandatory metrics and accountability, we know that we have a WRES, and that project has galvanised people to understand what the problem is in their organisations. The accountability comes because it is mandated through the CQC. So, the NHS will do what it has to do when it is told to do it. 

“The CQC is one of the organisations we have worked with to help and support us and keep shining the light on this issue. We will be working even closer with the CQC to turn the screw on that, and ensure organisations know and understand this is important stuff. 

“Persistent messages are really important to drip, drip, drip feed. Stephen [Dorrell] was right when he said this is about patient safety and satisfaction. Workforce race equality isn’t because Yvonne Coghill wants to be chief nursing officer of the NHS, it is a real imperative around safety for patients, satisfaction for patients and making sure that patients get the best possible care.” 

She added that it was refreshing that more organisations are starting to have senior-level decision-makers looking at race equality. 

“But we need more role models and people who can stand up from BME backgrounds in senior-level positions, so people can say we can be like them in our NHS,” said Coghill. “We need more of them. And we need to celebrate more of our success on this agenda.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION

W: www.england.nhs.uk/about/equality

Comments

S Taylor   03/08/2017 at 00:04

I am hopeful that this enlightenment will continue ,after serving now 38 years in the NHS most of which was patient centered and positive. I regret that I and others have experienced overt racism usually from senior managers and colleagues.

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