Almost three years on from the global reawakening about the prevalence and deadly impact of racial discrimination and bias, we have seen the NHS make strides forward.
This includes its commitments, pledges, and ambitions on improving outcomes for both staff and patient groups that have experienced discrimination, biases and harm due to their race.
Progress can be seen in numerous organisations, including NHS Providers, (the membership organisation for the NHS hospital, mental health, community and ambulance services) publishing their first-ever anti-racism statement in November 2022, further committing to becoming an anti-discriminatory organisation (NHSP, 2022).
The anecdotal, and research evidence is clear - although our leaders have committed to making improvements, the pace of progress has been unbearably slow.
For instance, the Race and Health Observatory recently undertook a rapid review into ethnic inequalities, exploring several priority areas including mental health care, maternal and neonatal healthcare, digital access, genetic testing and genomic medicine and the NHS workforce. Amongst its findings was evidence of NHS ethnic minority staff enduring racist abuse from other staff and patients and this was particularly stark for Black groups. (Ethnic Inequalities in Healthcare: A Rapid Evidence Review, 2022).
The findings are mirrored by an existing evidence base, including that in 99.6% of NHS Trusts, a higher percentage of staff from the ‘Other’ ethnic group said they had experienced discrimination at work from a colleague compared to White staff (WRES, 2020).
Focusing on sustainable change
A holistic and sustainable approach based on understanding the lived experience of marginalised communities, allyship, advocacy and accountability, particularly from those with power and influence, is key to creating a catalyst for change in race equality.
Recent policy developments have given us cause for optimism as we can see a renewed focus on accountability from NHS England, and the strategic embedding of not only Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, but importantly, anti-racism, at the very top of our NHS organisations.
Examples of recent shifts in our thinking around race equality can be demonstrated by the news in January 2023 that Mental Health Trusts would be asked to appoint a board director with the responsibility for making much-needed reductions to racism.
This policy shift will see providers developing a Parent and Carer Race equality Framework by March 2024.
Importantly, the approach involves understanding and responding to the lived experience of our ethnically diverse communities, and assessing the confidence and capability of staff in serving different communities – reviewing their training needs to equip them in making changes to their practice, putting race equality at its core.
To improve race equality, it starts with having a true and deep understanding of racism and it’s impacts on staff and patients, a commitment to make improvements, followed by action and accountability across the many layers of our organisations.
With this at the forefront of EDI strategies, there is cause to believe that improvements to race equality can, and will happen in our lifetimes.
How we are supporting EDI & Wellbeing strategy and transformation
Our equality, diversity, inclusion (EDI) and wellbeing team are highly skilled to work with customers to understand the challenges, develop solutions and deliver services to ensure equitable, diverse and inclusive workplaces.
We support organisations to transform their EDI impact through understanding the context, priority areas, and developing a sustainable strategy to improve the experiences and outcomes of people and patients.
Customers are guided by our subject matter expertise and impartial, external lens, to understand their strategic starting point, and co-produce the future direction of their EDI & wellbeing efforts based on lived experience, data and insights.