The Director of the Implementation Team looks at the way forward for the Workforce Race Equality Standard:
When the Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) was introduced to the NHS in April 2015, it was the first time that race equality was mandated and built into the NHS standard contract.
This, in itself, was a challenge for which a lot of people worked incredibly hard to make happen. It wasn’t that the other protected characteristics were less important, more that there was recognition that race equality needed targeted focus.
The WRES was introduced to enable employees from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds to have equal access to career opportunities and receive fair treatment in the workplace. This is important because there is overwhelming evidence that shows that a motivated, included and valued workforce helps deliver high quality patient care, increased patient satisfaction and better patient safety.
The first WRES data return showed contrasting experiences between BME staff and their white counterparts, highlighting the challenges of race equality at organisation, sector and regional levels.
In the two years since the WRES was implemented, we have made progress in engaging with provider trusts, data submission against the nine indicators has been good and we have published two WRES data analysis reports for 2015 and 2016.
The 2016 report has shown that the low baseline we started off from in 2015 has improved a little.
The change we are seeking in workforce race equality is not change for change sake; there is a moral, legal, financial and, most importantly, a quality of patient care case for change.
The next phase will build upon the work done to date on data and regulation and will focus on achieving cultural and transformational change.
Over the last two years, organisations have consistently asked for help in improving race equality and want to know how to make a difference. In the next phase the WRES we will continue to work with organisations and their boards to help them to better understand their data and support them to develop evidence based strategies and implementation plans to improve.
We know from work carried out in the US, UK and Australia, that improving race equality in an organisation takes determination, drive and energy. The key elements of any strategy to tackle race inequality needs to include:
- Senior level leadership and commitment to the agenda
- Data and intelligence (WRES)
- Accountability through an understanding of the data (CQC)
- Resources – human and financial
- Celebrating success
Our role going forward will be to support and enable organisations and healthcare systems to embed and sustain improvements on WRES data.
We will build new and robust relationships with independent healthcare organisations, commissioners, STPs and others, whilst also strengthening our joined up work with healthcare arm’s length bodies including the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and NHS Improvement.
I was privileged to work with colleagues at Sheffield Teaching Hospital last year to help develop, and then implement a strategy to improve race equality in one of the biggest foundation trusts in the country using the above evidence base. It wasn’t easy but what it showed was that with senior level commitment and support, change is possible. We have written up this experience which has now been published and is available for other organisations to learn from.
Since the last WRES report was published, we made a commitment to publish a number of guides and supporting documentations. To date we have published Improving through inclusion a guide to support NHS providers in supporting their BME networks and today we have published case studies of good practice from non-NHS employers.
In the months ahead we will provide support to organisations across the country on how to improve workforce race equality and, in addition to publishing a number of ‘how to’ guides, we will continue to adapt and evolve as the healthcare landscape changes with new care models, STPs and other innovative ways of working take shape.
The evidence that WRES has been a success will be seen not only through the statistics and data but by what people from all backgrounds feel and say about working for the NHS.
I am proud of the work we have done to improve workforce race equality in the NHS to date, and believe we will become an exemplar in terms of what can be achieved to improve race equality in workforces globally.