Mainstreaming human rights


18 / 04 / 2009

Strategic Health Authority

West Midlands SHA (NHS West Midlands)


The organisation

Heart of Birmingham Teaching Primary Care Trust (PCT) is located in the middle of Birmingham. It employs 1,350 staff who provide healthcare services for around 300,000 people, seven out of 10 of whom are black or Asian.

The trust had a budget in 2007-08 of approximately £480 million and works with other organisations, particularly the city council and the voluntary sector, to increase chances for the population to lead a healthy life.


What we did and why

The trust was keen to ensure the concept of human rights provided support for existing initiatives.  To help deliver this, it wanted to embed human rights in the chief executive's reference group.

The project provided an opportunity to engage with commissioning partners and to set human rights values across commissioning and service delivery. The PCT engaged in this project with the intention that it would take a ‘small steps’ approach.

By using a gradual introduction of human rights principles, the aim was to ensure that learning would grow to become a core part of the trust’s overall strategy. This would ensure basic human rights would remain an essential ingredient in planning at all levels.

In addition, the PCT wanted to embed human rights at the core of learning and development, as well as integrating that learning into service delivery. To achieve this, the trust sought the views of frontline staff and service users. .

How we did it

With top-level commitment, the PCT decided to begin a long-term process that looked at both the strategic, planning and operational levels of the organisation.

Initial activities included:

  • definition of a statement of human rights principles to guide service commissioning and a human rights based mission statement
  • assessment of requirements for including human rights in service contracts with commissioned providers and the definition of an action plan at a PCT/providers roundtable
  • definition of performance indicators to measure progress on, and impact of, human rights, starting by undertaking a human rights impact assessment on trust complaints reported through the Patient Advice and Liaison Service.

To develop workforce capacity to deliver these activities, the trust carried out a baseline assessment which collected staff views on equality and human rights, and provided a snapshot of where the PCT was at this time. This informed the development of the PCT’s work on equality and human rights. The products that were then developed included:

  • equality and human rights strategy
  • single equality and human rights scheme
  • training and development strategy

Staff and wider organisational development was key to making this happens and the trust has an objective for equality and human rights training to be mandatory for all staff.

The training placed a particular emphasis on how the principles of human rights are already at the centre of the work that staff do. Dignity champions have been selected within the trust to promote equality and human rights for all patients.


The results and next steps

Board level commitment has been essential
The trust has included in its governance strategy (equality impact assessment) that a human rights statement – designed with the British Institute of Human Rights – will inform any future personnel and service delivery policies

  • It is important for staff to identify see for themselves how human rights can be used in their work
  • Human rights need to be embedded in the trust’s working culture
  • There is a danger of human rights being seen as another ‘add on’ to existing work. Staff may be too busy delivering care to take this on and will ask why do things differently. However, human rights gives an opportunity to take a fresher, broader approach to engage more staff
  • Many of the trust’s existing practices and procedures implicitly or indirectly support/tackle human rights issues but do not explicitly state this

The trust now aims to:

  • Develop a robust human rights communications strategy to inform staff of the principles of human rights

Contact details

Peter Turner, senior HR manager/lead for equalities, Heart of Birmingham Teaching Primary Care Trust


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