The NHS must prioritise the creation of a compassionate and inclusive work environment that makes the health service a great place for women and ethnic minority groups, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has urged.
Speaking at the Royal College of Physicians’ annual conference yesterday, Mr Hancock expressed deep regret at the stories of harassment of and discrimination towards women that have recently emerged from the NHS.
He outlined three main areas that the Government aims to change to make the NHS a great place to work for everyone:
- providing more mentoring and support to ensure women progress to senior leadership roles
- encouraging flexible working to a greater extent
- ending discrimination and building a compassionate culture
On female employment, the health and social care secretary referred to the estimation that 500 more women need to be hired to board level roles in order to reach gender balance across the NHS.
This was outlined in a joint report by NHS Employers and NHS Improvement in 2017.
Mr Hancock added that no job within the NHS – where the gender pay gap is still 23% – should be off-limits to anyone ‘because of who they are or their background’.
On flexible working, he said he wants to ‘go much, much further’ to create more part-time, term-time, home working and job-share roles to help employees balance work and family life.
All trusts have been asked to use digital rotas – currently available to around half of clinical staff in the NHS – to help meet this goal.
On the topic of discrimination, Mr Hancock said he was ‘disgusted and angry’ at what he has heard, highlighting the BMA’s investigation opened this month in response to female GPs’ claims of sexism.
He said: ‘Truth be told, we haven’t always been there enough for every member of the NHS family. Or helped everyone realise their potential.
‘Whether you’re a senior consultant, a midwife, a paramedic, a porter or a trainee just joining, I want the NHS to be a rewarding, compassionate, brilliant place to work for everyone.’
Mr Hancock added: ‘The NHS: it’s meant to be a caring organisation. That’s what it does. And yet, sometimes it doesn’t care enough about its own.
‘More than anything we need to create a more caring, a more compassionate culture.’
NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson welcomed Mr Hancock’s ‘open and honest’ approach to the workforce issues facing the NHS.
He said: ‘We agree that solving these challenges isn’t just about future workforce planning and more money.
All of the NHS together must get behind a single, clear, approach and develop a unity of purpose which has been sadly lacking for far too long.’
NHS Employers and NHS Confederation deputy chief executive Danny Mortimer, said:
‘Organisations in the NHS take seriously the need for them to address the underlying issues driving gender pay gaps across healthcare going forward.’
Healthcare Leader recently exclusively reported that the NHS is currently unlikely to achieve the objective of ensuring that 50% of health service board members are women by 2020.