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Health leaders must commit to ‘uncomfortable’ conversations around race

Health leaders must commit to ‘uncomfortable’ conversations around race
By Jess Hacker
26 October 2023

NHS leaders must commit to having ‘uncomfortable’ conversations about race if they are to properly tackle racial discrimination in disciplinary procedures, NHS Providers has advised.

Doing so will help leaders develop their own anti-racist practice and allyship, while increasing their awareness to better inform their behaviour and decision making, it said.

It comes as part of NHS Providers’ new guidance on closing the ‘disciplinary gap’.

Highlighted in the NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) data, the disciplinary gap refers to the relative likelihood of ethnic minority staff entering the formal disciplinary process compared with white staff.

In 2022, ethnic minority staff were 1.14 times more likely to enter the formal disciplinary process compared to white staff.

NHS Providers said a number of trust leaders surveyed shared that they ‘experienced discomfort and a lack of confidence to have conversations about race’, adding that they are concerned they might say the wrong thing.

However, the guidance advises that gaining the confidence to do so embeds ‘a culture of openness’.

Health leaders have also been urged to:

  • Review quantitative data from the WRES and other sources alongside qualitative insights from staff to help identify trends
  • Listen to staff networks
  • Invest in training
  • Demonstrate leadership accountability.

Deputy chief executive at NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, said: ‘We know that inclusive cultures within the NHS are critically important for staff wellbeing and high-quality care.

‘Trust leaders remain committed to addressing systemic race inequality within the NHS and acting on clear evidence of race discrimination in disciplinary procedures.’

She added: ‘By providing practical guidance and insights, it aims to support the transformative change required for a more inclusive healthcare workforce and ultimately, better patient care.’

The report was published collaboratively with healthcare law firm Hempsons.

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