They aren’t heavy they’re my partners

In September, Joan Saddler co-chair of the Equality and Diversity Council (EDC), spoke about the role of the EDC and their three core themes and goals – inclusive healthcare, workplaces and inclusive leadership. In this blog, Paul Deemer, provides an update on how the work of the NHS Employers diversity and inclusion team contributes and supports the delivery of those key themes.

The EDC meeting is chaired by Simon Stevens, ably supported by Joan Saddler, and attended by chief executive’s, senior civil servants and a smattering of MBEs. It might surprise you to know that there are also voluntary sector representatives and people with lived experience who are expressly there to ensure that the patient perspective is considered.

But what my colleagues around the table might be surprised to know is that at every EDC meeting, I bring along (at least) 25 colleagues, and when I speak, I speak for my 25 colleagues, and when I listen, I listen on behalf of my 25 colleagues.

What on earth are you going on about? I hear you ask!

Let me explain.

Each year the NHS Employers diversity and inclusion team that I lead, operates the highly regarded free-of-charge annual partners programme. We recruit around 25 health and social care organisations, to work with us through the year to improve their confidence and capability around all aspects of diversity and inclusion at their respective organisations.

This along with other commissions forms part of an annual programme of work that we negotiate each year with NHS England. A cornerstone of this work programme is the link to the objectives and priorities of the EDC. Our role in this is to make sure that the high level legislation, policy and regulation is translated and filtered down to the front line of the health service and put into practice. One of the key ways in which we do this is through our diversity and inclusion partners programme.

So how do I manage to smuggle these guys into the room with me without anybody noticing? You know by now that they’re not really there, but they’re very real to me! And – well actually – in many ways, I hope they do get noticed. I hope they get noticed because it’s not just me going into that room. I have got eyes watching, scrutinising and assessing, I have ears – listening to the spoken – and the unspoken – words in the room. And I have critical friends who are constructively challenging everything that is being said.

“So where do employers come into that then Paul?” “What relevance does that have to me sitting out here in Bristol?” “Spend a day in my shoes – then you’ll realise what budgetary pressure is.” My partners help me to stay grounded!

So – what do my partners do for the EDC? Well, amongst many other things, they are currently helping to pilot the draft Workforce Disability Equality Standard metrics within their organisations – modelling the data capture process and seeing whether there are any blips in the system which will hinder trusts collecting the required data when it comes into effect in April 2018. They are also working with colleagues at NHS England, Public Health England and the LGBT Foundation (and others) to pilot the sexual orientation monitoring standard that is going to be introduced into the system from April 2017. And they have been instrumental in critically assessing the EDS2 framework which is currently under review.

But – one of the most important things they do for the EDC and the wider NHS is to keep diversity and inclusion at the heart of the NHS strategy and at the heart of the NHS workforce. They understand the importance of an inclusive workforce and value difference in its broadest sense, and they create environments and workplaces where this culture can flourish.

And what do they want the EDC to do for them? They want them to give diversity and inclusion a genuine place in mainstream policy – by using their influence to make connections across the system. They want them to create a dialogue, a sense of direction and a message which gives a sense of purpose to everyone when they think about diversity and inclusion in their workplace. But – more than anything – they want their voice heard around that table, they want to influence, to share their learning and best practice.

So – the next time I speak – forgive me if it sounds like I’m shouting. It’s the other 25 to blame!

Paul Deemer

Paul has been a HR professional for over 30 years. He has worked in local government, the voluntary sector and the health service – with particular experience in the fields of recruitment, employee relations, employment law and diversity. It was whilst working for the charity Barnardo’s that he took on the role of national equality and diversity manager, further utilising the experience and knowledge gained in this role when he was seconded into the Department of Health’s equality and diversity team in 2000 to help them develop their national strategy in this area. Paul currently works for NHS Employers – which represents and supports NHS trusts across England – and is helping NHS organisations to embed diversity and inclusion good practice across the NHS.