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Honest conversations key to race equality at the NHS

Working conditions for BAME NHS staff have been improved through “sharing a common goal” with representative bodies

Honest, candid and sometimes painful discussions between staff and HR have improved workplace race equality in the NHS, according to the chief executive of NHS Employers Danny Mortimer.

Speaking to HR magazine at the NHS Employers Workforce Summit, Mortimer explained that black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff, who make up a fifth of the organisation’s entire workforce, have had different work experiences to their white colleagues in the past few years. This has included harassment, bullying, abuse from patients and staff, and not being shortlisted for jobs.

However, Mortimer said this experience gap has started to close after raising the profile of the contribution BAME employees make and examining staff feedback on an ongoing basis.

“Having an honest self-appraisal of our engagement challenges has been crucial for tackling BAME staff's workplace experiences,” he said. “Because we’ve been measuring staff engagement for more than 15 years we have a really powerful set of metrics to explore how our people are feeling, particularly at a team level both locally and nationally.”

Mortimer said strengthening ties with internal and external staff networks, trade unions, employer associations and community groups has been key to creating an inclusive workplace culture. The focus has been on sharing common goals and having difficult discussions on workforce race equality.

“There’s been an aim within the NHS to collaborate with these groups and identify shared opportunities,” he said. “We share a common set of values and have a generally common voice to government.

“This collaboration has not been without challenges and there is still more we need to do. However, our ability to return to the negotiating table and keep important conversations progressing has been essential, even when there are disagreements. That ability to retain communication has brought us closer together.”