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15.06.17

Sir Andrew Cash: We are in the foothills of tackling NHS race equality

The NHS is still failing to address the problem of race equality in the system and will continue to do so until “we confront what the mirror tells us” delegates at NHS Confed were told yesterday.

During a working lunch session, which focused on the Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES), Sir Andrew Cash, CEO of Sheffield Teaching Hospitals FT, stated that as an organisation “we are in the foothills of this agenda”.

“At Sheffield, we are an organisation of 16,5000 staff, and we have 2,100 BME staff,” he said, adding that while delegates could look at Sheffield’s nine WRES indicators there was a warning that these would only be as good as others across the system.

Sir Andrew, who is a member of the WRES Strategic Advisory Group, stated that the important thing is initially recognising the problem and confronting it, “that is the first stage in tackling it”.

“The issue about this is that people are not confronting the problem,” he said. “Right now, the NHS is consistently not achieving its standards,” he said. “We are edging more and more towards a regulatory method that we will have to do it, but it is much better if this is co-produced.”

Sir Andrew reflected that this emotional agenda is stirring up the status quo, and is “a long, long journey” and “I expect it to be a few years until we see results wash through”.

Also speaking at the session was former health secretary and NHS Confederation chair Stephen Dorrell who claimed: “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,” he said, adding that the health service must mobilise a genuinely diverse workforce in the future.”

“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,” stated Dorrell. “That is why we must hold up the mirror. We must confront what the mirror tells us.”

Yvonne Coghill, director of WRES Implementation, told delegates that this problem is global, systemic and hard to shift – it isn’t just an NHS problem.

“We need to pull together what works in organisations, and the theory is that this would help move race equality in the right direction,” she said, adding that there are six key issues for delivering change: demonstrative leadership and direction, mandatory metrics, consistent and persistent messages, resources, role models, and celebrating and highlighting successes.

Dorrell also added that Sheffield is lucky, as it has embraced this agenda from the CEO down.

“The point that Yvonne repeatedly makes is that this is not an agenda for the HR department, not an agenda for a bunch of experts, it is a strategic objective of the NHS from Simon Stevens down,” he stated. “We need to be clear why that agenda is important for the NHS.”

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