“The challenges around diversity and equality across the NHS – and across the wider society – have been many and varied in the last 12 months. Elements of xenophobia and racial hatred have been unleashed during the American Presidential campaign and the Brexit discussions – and the spectre of bullying and harassment continues to hang over many organisations. #EQW2018 is an opportunity for organisations to reflect on these issues – but also to celebrate some of the more positive elements of working in the NHS such as the forthcoming workforce disability equality standard.” Paul Deemer, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at NHS Employers

#EQW2018

NHS Employers co-ordinates the annual celebration of Equality, Diversity and Human Rights Week (14 to 18 May 2018) across the NHS. The event helps communciations teams highlight the work that is being done to create a fairer, more inclusive NHS for patients, staff and other stakeholders.

Myth busters from NHS Employers

I routinely train staff in statutory and mandatory equality and human rigths awareness; and the following myths are regularly raised by those in attendance. It’s good to see NHS Employers putting together a list of them and addressing them directly. I summarise some of the areas below, but you can download the full booklet here.

Equality and diversity is just about ticking boxes: Before data was collected about staff, patients and other stakeholders, it was difficult to see if everyone was being treated fairly. It is only through collecting information about diversity that we are now able to tell that some patient groups (e.g. those with learning disabilities, those who are lesbian, gay or bisexual) have poorer health outcomes than others, and some groups of staff (e.g. those from Black and Minority Ethnic groups, those with disabilities) are less likely to be appointed to senior roles and less likely to be shortlisted for senior jobs or progress in the workplace compared to other ethnic groups. Without this information we would be unable to make a case a review of processes and practices and to ask for fairer ways of delivering services and employing people.

Improving equality and diversity won’t save money: The problem is, it does. Basically, if workplaces fail to reflect the population served they are less likely to turn a profit or deliver equitable services and more likely to waste money making amends to unsatisfied service users and poorly treated staff. This has been shown over and over again across all industry sectors. Studies show that the main reasons are diversity reduces group think and it can help improve creativity and accelerate innovation; people are more likely to feel valued at work, be more committed and less likely to be unwell or sign off sick; patients are more likely to stick to treatment regimes and seek help early if their diverse needs are recognised.

It’s only a problem for underrepresented groups: This issue has come up numerous times at training sessions. The myth being that equality is about minority groups. The framing of  Equality law doesn’t help. The practice is to segment identities into single categories (the 9 under the Equality Act 2010  being age, disability, sex, gender identity, religion or belief, marriage and civil partnership, sexual orientation, pregnancy and maternity and race) with limited recognition that most people have multiple intersectional identities, and these identities will have a different impact on the individual depending on the structures at play. You may for example face considerable age discrimination as an elderly white man who has just re-entered the workplace in a junior position. However, if you are an elderly white man who has worked in an organisation for a while, you may benefit from the overwhelming practice in most industry sectors of appointing this particular group to more senior positions. Hence, what constitutes an underrepresented group can often be misleading.

Notice something lacking in your area?

BSUH NHS Trust offers a wide range of resources, support and information for patients and staff. If you would like a member of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Team to come to your ward area or department to update your team on any key equality and human rights issues, just email me, Olivia.King@bsuh.nhs.uk or use the contact form. I am always willing to hear about training needs of staff, do contact me if there are particular areas that you are concerned with.