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The Chief Executive of NHS Employers reflects on the progress of the Workforce Race Equality Standard:
There are two management adages that often get quoted in policy development circles.
Namely: “What gets measured gets done” – or some variation of this – and “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”.
Both of these quotes are generally attributed to the management guru Peter Drucker.
They are interesting quotes because of course they essentially contradict and fight against each other – in that one is encouraging you to be very formulaic and process driven in your approach – and the other is warning you against this. But of course that is the essence of modern day management, in that there is no one size fits all solution!
So it is with the Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) that the NHS introduced a few years ago and is using as a force for change. Whilst ostensibly a measurement tool, it tells us something profoundly disturbing about our culture across the NHS, and how that is manifested in our policies and procedures, our behaviours and the experience of our people and patients.
The best organisations then use the data, but recognise that the data will only change when the culture changes.
This philosophy is what very much underpins the NHS Employers diversity and inclusion Partners programme that has been running for several years now.
It is a programme that seeks to encourage and empower the organisations who participate in it to both use the levers and mechanisms in the system – such as the WRES and the Equality Delivery System – and also focus on creating workplaces that attract, nurture and retain managers who understand that culture needs to be sown and grown. Or, to quote another great philosopher, Bob Marley: “When the root is strong, the fruit is sweet”.
Several of the organisations who have participated on the Partners programme in previous years, such as Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership Trust, Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust and Southend University Hospitals, continue to thrive at the moment and show real progress in closing the gap in the WRES metrics reported in the national report.
Equally, some of our current Partners such as Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust and Lewisham and Greenwich NHS trust also report progress in certain aspects of the WRES.
Ultimately we know that this is not a one track road, but a thousand lane motorway of policies, practices, biases and procedures that need to be navigated towards one final destination. This requires leadership and vision and bravery from the very top and a management team underneath that is diverse and principled, and accepting of the need to change themselves and their organisations.
Coupled with this, the best organisations also know that they need to engage staff – and their formal representatives – to help lead the change. They need to listen to what their people are telling them will make the biggest difference, the biggest improvements.
As we forge a long term plan for a better NHS, we have to ensure that we make the best use of every ounce of talent available to us. A combination of data giving insights into our culture, honest and principled leadership and engaging people to drive change are three key ingredients to driving out the worse experience we still offer our black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) colleagues in the NHS.