NHS managers must lead new drive to stamp out discrimination of health workers, says Simon Stevens

The head of NHS England today urged NHS managers to lead a new drive to stamp out discrimination in all parts of the health service as he published a new analysis showing wide variation across the country.

The analysis, carried out by the Kings Fund for NHS England used data drawn from the 2014 NHS Staff Survey to assess staff experience at work.

Speaking at theĀ  Managers in Partnership Annual Conference in London, Simon Stevens said publication of the performance of all NHS organisations against a new Workforce Race Equality Standard – due out next April – would provide the impetus and accountability needed to make improvements.

He said: “By introducing a new workforce race equality standard, we have chosen to hold up a mirror to the NHS each year to ask how it looks and feels to the people devoting their professional lives to looking after patients and the communities we serve.”

“Today’s new report paints an important picture of what is happening. It represents a call to action for everyone in the NHS.”

The report also highlights organisations which are ahead of the curve from which other can learn. They have recognised that there is an issue and are putting approaches in place to tackle discrimination, these include:

  • Lancashire Care are developing leadership strategies to make a difference;
  • Mersey Care NHS Trust and Birmingham Children’s Hospital are developing outstanding team-based working;
  • Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh, Northumbria Healthcare are developing high levels of staff engagement, compassion and wellbeing.

Other organisations are already developing comprehensive diversity and inclusion strategies and are starting to make progress.

The report showed that discrimination within the NHS was experienced between managers and staff, between colleagues, but also from patients and members of the public. Key findings of the report were:

  • Overall, levels of reported discrimination vary significantly by type of trust, location, gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion and disability status.
  • Reported levels of discrimination are highest in ambulance trusts and lowest in community trusts
  • Reported levels of discrimination are highest for Black employees and lowest for White employees; all other non-White groups are far more likely to report experiencing discrimination than White employees.
  • People from all religions report discrimination on the basis of their faith, but this is by far the highest among Muslims.
  • Disabled staff report very high levels of discrimination; levels of reported discrimination are highest among all the protected characteristics groups.

NHS England, with the NHS Equality and Diversity Council, have also launched a number of national initiatives to bring about much needed change. This includes the publication of the Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) which for the first time requires NHS organisations to demonstrate progress against a number of indicators of workforce equality, including a specific indicator to address the low levels of BME Board representation. Further work is also underway in respect of sexual orientation and disability.