Opinion: Recruiting & Retaining BME Staff | Juliana Ansah, Head of Equality, East London NHS FT
If you want to recruit and retain staff, start with creating a healthy working environment free of discrimination
The NHS has come a long way in its bid to tackle inequality faced by Black, Asian and ethnically diverse staff, patients and service users. Whilst many patient-focused improvements are already underway there is still an urgency to address race inequalities in the workforce at multiple levels. This requires concerted action across the system rather than just updated mission statements and abstract pledges.
"The NHS is in the midst of a workforce crisis, yet BME healthcare professionals are still experiencing unnecessary barriers to career progression."
The introduction of systems such as the Workforce Race Equality Standards (WRES), which uses equality indicators to track and improve performance, has given great insight into the experiences of the BME workforce. One of the WRES indicators measures the number of staff that had experienced discrimination in the past 12 months. This is important because experiences of discrimination not only disrupt the workplace environment but there has also been evidence to support that the unfair treatment of staff is linked to poor experience of care for patients.
Recent results of the WRES analysis found that ethnic background continues to be the most common reason cited for discrimination, and that ethnic background was mentioned by almost half of staff that claimed to have experienced discrimination at work. Whilst some are celebrating small victories in equality, staff perceptions of discrimination, bullying and harassment in the workplace have not improved over time for either BME or white staff.
"I have recently been appointed as Head of Equality Diversity and Inclusion at NHS East London FT. I found that this Trust was diverse at board level ... It was easy to access their equality reports on the website."
The percentage of BME professionals working in the NHS is greater than the percentage of working age BME in England (22% and 14% respectively), yet only 9% of those are in senior positions.
I wanted to draw people’s attention to the above because of what I want to say now. The NHS is in the midst of a workforce crisis, yet BME healthcare professionals are still experiencing unnecessary barriers to career progression. There are over 110,000 unfilled positions in the NHS, and I strongly believe that improving equality, diversity and inclusion performance will play an important role in the NHS building a more sustainable workforce.
"Don’t just say you’re an inclusive employer, prove it. Publish your equality plans"
I personally have not been immune from discrimination in the NHS and have firsthand experience of working in unhealthy environments. When searching for new opportunities it is important for me to research the diversity of the organisation.
I have recently been appointed as Head of Equality Diversity and Inclusion at NHS East London FT. I found that this Trust was diverse at board level and was named in the HSJ’s Top 10 best places to work in healthcare and was voted Provider Trust of the Year in 2018. It was easy to access their equality reports on the website and discover the actions they’d taken to reduce both workforce and patient inequality. This was a key attraction in me deciding to work with them.
Don’t just say you’re an inclusive employer, prove it. Publish your equality plans and share your progress. We can all play a part when it comes to improving our organisations’ understanding of equality, diversity, and inclusion.
Genevieve Shaw, Editor