Newcastle-upon-Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust


The Newcastle-upon-Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is one of the largest teaching trusts in England, employing 14,000 staff. It offers academically-led acute, specialist and local community services to patients in Newcastle and the north east of England.

What was the aim/problem?

The trust was concerned about emerging evidence of the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) colleagues, and sought to ensure colleagues felt safe and supported.

What was the solution?

Existing risk assessments were updated to include ethnicity as a specific risk factor. All staff self-identifying as BAME were contacted via email and letter to arrange a risk assessment and schedule discussions; this was accompanied by use of posters on wards and in departments.

Managers were provided with guides to conversations on risk assessment, and how to initiate a conversation about ethnicity.

What were the challenges?

It was difficult to sensitively acknowledge the views and opinions of BAME staff that needed to be sought and considered, to develop a reasonable and proportionate plan.

Contradictory views existed on whether ethnicity should be added to the risk assessment; on whose responsibility it should be to request and undertake risk assessment. Some colleagues raised concerns over being singled out and subject to a different process.

Some managers felt less confident than others to have conversations that centred around ethnicity, resulting in the issue being avoided.

There were some difficulties developing technology quickly enough to enable a centrally recorded completion of these risk assessments.

What were the results?

In general, staff have felt assured that the trust was serious about taking care of its BAME colleagues and responding to their concerns with action.

Feedback from BAME staff has been positive and the process has enabled open and transparent conversations to take place with line managers. The risk assessment acted as a catalyst enabling staff to talk about how they felt.

What were the learning points?

Engaging with, listening and responding to the concerns of the BAME staff network has been key to a successful implementation.

Weekly engagements and check-ins have enabled issues to be highlighted and addressed quickly and also enables the rationale for any decision making to be shared and explained.

The active inclusion of executive directors in these meetings has been welcomed and demonstrates a visible commitment from the executive team.

This process has also highlighted that some managers find conversations that involve ethnicity difficult and some BAME staff do not feel confident about having those conversations with their line managers.

Want to know more?

Karen Pearce, Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (People):