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Time to reflect, much to do

Since becoming Co-Chair of the Equality and Diversity Council (EDC), working alongside my Co-Chair Simon Stevens and dozens of committed EDC colleagues and stakeholders, I’m glad that we have collectively made a difference.

For the first time the EDC is publishing an annual report which celebrates the hard work of our members and other parts of the wider health system.

The EDC’s three strategic priorities have spanned 2015 to 2017:

  • Inclusive workplaces – longstanding equality issues across NHS;
  • Workforce equality – continuous equality improvements;
  • Inclusive healthcare – spearheading best practice for disadvantaged groups.

I’d like to flag a step change in the work achieved through the NHS Learning Disability Employment Programme – led by NHS England and NHS Employers. The programme continues to find local and national solutions to help remove barriers and increase the employment of people with a learning disability.

The NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES), now in its second year, continues to help NHS organisations review their performance against nine indicators of staff experience and workforce representation. This performance measurement supports robust action plans to close the gap in workforce experience between white and BME staff and to improve BME representation at senior management and board levels.

Other notable work includes the co-production of GP registration leaflets to help groups like homeless people, asylum seekers and refugees, Gypsies, Travellers and people from the Roma community improve their access to and experience of healthcare. We also began initial analysis of STP plans to see how they have taken equality and diversity issues into account. We plan to support STPs further on this important agenda.

I would like to thank all those who have been involved with the Council’s work. While it is good to reflect on a positive 12 months, there is still much to do to deliver on this important agenda and the EDC needs to have a renewed focus for 2017-18.

We must ensure that our scope and work plan is more closely aligned to improving care for the people we serve. Never has it been more important to deliver the priorities within the Five Year Forward View Next Steps which matter most to patients, services users, communities and the NHS workforce.

A global rising environment of negativity around the equalities agenda requires necessary guardianship from all of us, proving the benefits of a society that is proud to be inclusive.

We have taken time to consider our work to date, current challenges facing the NHS and direction of travel around equality, diversity and inclusion as well as areas for our 2017-18 workplan.

Some anchor points are:

  • Systems working gives us the opportunity to rethink our relationship with patients and the importance of co-production. The key question is whether the latter is just a phrase or is it an actionable , well-resourced plan of action intent on delivering better outcomes?
  • Speaking of outcomes, we need to narrow the gap in terms of the disproportionate treatment and care outcomes for people using mental health, learning disabilities and cancer services
  • We must connect to the new and emerging NHS system architecture – STPs and ACSs. The EDC can support these organisations to work in different ways to make an impact on inequalities locally and ensure work in aligned with local authorities as key strategic partners;
  • There is a need for the EDC to connect locally and strategically particularly at Board governance level. We need to strengthen links to ensure greater mutual understanding of work that is going on at both a national and local level.

EDC members agree that effective communications are essential. We aim to raise awareness of the challenges we face and action taken to help lever equality and diversity as an improvement tool for the system. Part of this is the need to be much better at celebrating our successes.

Most recently the celebration of inclusivity and diversity came at the Pride events in Leeds  and London which both attracted well over one million revellers. Many staff from across the NHS come together to be part of these special occasions and enjoy the acknowledgment and affection from the wider communities in the process.

The world around us is changing and issues such as Brexit will present new challenges to the NHS as a whole. Our role is to continue to ensure that an inclusive health system celebrates equality and remains personal, fair and diverse.

I am determined that when I look back in another year we will have even more positive outcomes to report, not least because we all want an even better NHS for everyone.

Joan Saddler

Joan Saddler is Associate Director of Patients and Communities at the NHS Confederation.

She was formerly National Director of Patient and Public Affairs based within the Patient and Public Engagement and Experience Division at the Department of Health. Areas of responsibility included NHS and 3rd sector liaison, complaints, local involvement networks (LINks) and transition to Healthwatch.

As a former PCT Chair and Mental Health trust Non Executive Joan also brings a governance lens to her work along with her experience as a Chief Executive within the community and voluntary sector.

Joan was awarded an OBE for services to Health and Diversity in 2007. Her experience informs her role working with the Chief Executive of NHS England as Co-Chairs of the NHS Equality and Diversity Council.

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