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ICSs should have ‘duty’ to report progress on addressing discrimination


By James Hacker
8 June 2021

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Integrated care systems (ICSs) should have a ‘duty’ to report on their progress made towards supporting staff from minority ethnic backgrounds, the Health and Social Care Committee has said.

The recommendation was made today (8 June) as part of the Committee’s inquiry into workforce burnout and resilience in the NHS and social care, which found that the Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected staff from minority ethnic groups.

The report said that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) should set out plans to implement the recommendations made by the BAME Communities Advisory Group last October and a timeframe for doing so.  

It added that ICSs ‘should have a duty to report on its progress against those recommendations’.

The advisory group’s report, delivered to the Social Care Sector COVID-19 Support Taskforce, called for equal status between staff ‘working in the NHS and social care in research, the design, development, and delivery of programmes that support BAME staff through the current and future pandemics’.

It added that co-ordination between the NHS and Local Authority, Social Care and Public Health to support BAME staff in social care should be more robust, and called for ‘clearer guidance and expectations’ to improve messaging on the need to protect BAME workers.

Discrimination a factor in burnout

The Health and Social Care Committee’s inquiry found that discrimination was a factor in staff burnout, with evidence provided by the King’s Fund highlighting that staff from minority ethnic backgrounds reported worse experiences compared to white staff ‘year after year’.

It also heard evidence from the Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) report, with this year’s report finding white applicants were 1.61 times more likely to be appointed from shortlisting compared to BME applicants.

The Committee said that the WRES report and the NHS People plan was ‘an important step’ in offering equal opportunities to all NHS staff.

It added that translating data into actions – a recommendation of the WRES report – must include ensuring that the boards of the new ICSs ‘appropriately represent the populations they serve’.

‘We therefore recommend that WRES data be made part of the ‘balanced basket of indicators’ we suggest for Integrated Care Systems, with the result that they become accountable for progress across their domains. As part of this process, organisations should set themselves ambitious yet achievable targets that include timings,’  the report said.

Other recommendations

The Committee also recommended that ICSs be required to facilitate staff access to wellbeing support, with the system being accountable for the take-up of those services.

Mental health support should be maintained for staff even as the sector returns to ‘business as usual’ after the pandemic, it said.

It added that the workforce burnout emergency will not be solved without a ‘total overhaul of the way the NHS does workforce planning’ and suggested that Health Education England publish independent workforce projections – shaped by anticipated demand for services and covering five, 10 and 20 year assessments.

‘Bitter irony’

Suzie Bailey, director of leadership and organisational development at The King’s Fund, said the Committee’s report was a ‘stark depiction’ of the excessive workloads facing staff across the NHS and social care.

‘It is a bitter irony that so many health and care staff are made ill because of their work,’ she said.

‘It is particularly shocking that ethnic minority staff report worse experiences of working in the health and care system. In the latest NHS staff survey, 17% of black and minority ethnic staff reported experiencing discrimination at the hands of their own colleagues. Sustained and concerted efforts are needed to rid health and care services of this systemic discrimination.’

Ms Bailey added that the pandemic has left many staff ‘physically and emotionally drained’, but that staff burnout in the health and care sector has been present ‘for many years’.

‘Despite this, successive governments have seen health and care workforce pressures as a problem for tomorrow,’ she said.

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