The new NHS equality, diversity, and inclusion improvement plan sets out actions to tackle the prejudice and discrimination that negatively impacts individuals and groups working in the NHS.
Welcoming publication of the plan, Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:
“As the NHS approaches its 75th anniversary, there is an urgent need to radically improve equality, diversity, and inclusion in every corner of the health system. The NHS will only survive if everyone can go to work without fear of prejudice and discrimination. By creating an inclusive environment, we enable our staff to thrive and that means better care for patients.
“We know many minoritised ethnic psychiatrists have faced overt or covert racism at work and most do not report these incidents. We also know those experiences impacts their health and patients or carers.
“A truly national health service must reflect the patients it treats, from the frontline to the boardroom. While many trusts have rightly embraced diversity, others need to do better. Targets for executives and board members to improve diversity and culture must be bold and ambitious and reflect the diversity of their local community.
“Nobody should be exposed to bullying, discrimination or harassment at work. As the largest employer in the country with responsibility for preventing and treating illness, the NHS must lead by example. While annual targets to reduce bullying, discrimination and harassment are a step in the right direction, the NHS can and must do more.
“Bullying, discrimination and harassment damage mental health and make mental illness worse. They also result in poor workplace experiences. This is a key recruitment and retention issue further exacerbating the NHS workforce crisis. The Royal College of Psychiatrists calls on NHS organisations to commit to zero tolerance of bullying, discrimination and harassment in the workplace and to develop plans to eliminate these harmful incidents.
“Senior leadership need to set a culture where staff feel safe, with a welcoming and inclusive environment for all minoritised ethnic staff. Accountability sends a very strong message about the importance of EDI being core and that it is everyone’s business.
“Pay gaps are an anachronism. Targets to reduce gender, race and disability pay gaps are a step in the right direction but will only be achieved if the relevant data is collected and published so performance can be tracked.
“A growing research base shows that prejudice and discrimination increases exponentially if an individual has multiple protected characteristics. This plan rightly highlights the importance of improving health inequalities for all staff and groups, including those from overseas.
“Ultimately, this plan will only succeed if it is underpinned by robust and measurable targets, publicly available so everyone can track progress of their local NHS organisations. We call on all health bodies and providers to make better use of data, including collecting robust and disaggregated data about equality interventions, their impact and effectiveness to underpin equitable outcomes in service delivery.”
The College will publish new guidance to support mental health employers to tackle racism in the workplace in July. The Act Against Racism guidance complements and can be used by organisations to fulfil their requirements under the NHS EDI Improvement plan.