Race Matters

Tackling workplace discrimination in the health service

Chair of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), Gary Page, is this month launching our new initiative to ‘Challenge, Educate and Support’ when instances of workplace discrimination occur. Gary and board members have been at the forefront of this project, recognising their role as key leaders and role models in order to influence change in the organisation. In addition to launching the project on the 24th April 2014, NSFT will also pledge this action as to ‘End Racism This Generation’ a campaign run by Runnymede Trust.

Our own equality survey together with the findings of the national NHS survey which some of our staff completed in 2013 have been extremely useful in painting a picture of where we are at and what needs be done to address some of those pertinent issues related to discrimination.

The report highlighted that experience of staff across most areas have either deteriorated or stayed the same since our 2011 survey. After the trust launched its anti-racism campaign in 2012 called “Spot it, Report it and Stop it” we saw a significant increase in reporting of incidents of racism. This suggests ‘Spot it, Report it and Stop it’ had a positive impact in making staff feel more confident in reporting incidents. However, feedback from staff suggests that they may not necessarily feel supported after reporting incidents of racism:

“Overall I think the Trust tries to have the conversation but challenging the hidden cultures in an organisation is very difficult. There are so many elements that influence people’s behaviour and something are not always as explicit.”

“We receive and witness a lot of abuse from patients but I don’t think local staff care much about that”.

“The trust does partially support me and my colleagues but in light of the recent changes in services staff are being extremely tested and compromised in ways that do not feel at all supportive.”

What makes NSFT different is that we recognise discrimination continues despite the presence of equalities legislation.  We take this matter seriously and believe that we need to work actively, beyond legislation, to fulfil our legal duty. We understand how upsetting and humiliating it can be for people to be treated unfairly and therefore we are determined to improve on our practises and procedures to ensure all workers are treated equally and given the same opportunities. We are therefore determined to tackle the issue by “Challenging inappropriate behaviours, Educating people, and Supporting each other”.

To do this we have put together practice guidance for staff called “Challenge, Educate and Support” to make sure that everyone are absolutely clear of the Trust’s stance in tackling discrimination.

This practice guidance booklet reveals some real-life experiences of racism and discrimination that some staff have suffered in the workplace. These are offensive, hurtful and completely unacceptable, but by telling their stories, NSFT is demonstrating its readiness to create an open dialogue for all employees to feel comfortable and confident to talk about the issue in a transparent way.

‘Challenge, Educate, and Support’ goes on to make NSFT’s procedures for tackling discrimination clearer to staff, which is:

•    Asking yourself, do you or your colleagues feel confident in challenging the abuse?
•    Speaking to someone and seeking support as soon as possible (this may be your Equality Champion or the Equality and Engagement Manager)
•    Recording and Reporting the incident on Datix.
•    Contacting the police
•    Informing the appropriate person (Team leader, Locality Manager or Human Resources)
•    Considering any training requirements that will help you or your team in dealing with such a difficult situation
•    Considering any educational needs for the service users involved

As a Foundation Trust and one of the biggest providers of mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk, we want to set a good example for other organisations locally and nationally.

To be able to provide the highest quality of care to all those who need our services, it is absolutely crucial that we maintain a healthy workforce through promoting equality and fairness to all our staff.

‘Challenge, Educate and Support’ is our approach in making sure we can genuinely and effectively start addressing any form of discrimination in order to create the positive working environment we want for staff, and an inclusive service to our patients.

Ravi Seenan is Equality and Engagement Manger at Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation NHS Trust

Photo Credit: Christopher Thomond

For further discussion about inequalities in the health service, please see this blog on mental health
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