Tapping into the lived experience of BME staff

Habib Naqvi

Dr Habib Naqvi is the policy lead for the Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) implementation team at NHS England. In this blog he reflects on the links between the WRES, workforce representation, staff engagement and patient satisfaction.

Six years ago, during the interview for my post at NHS England, I was asked a question which I have never forgotten, and which now I always ask when I am interviewing: "Can you name a value of the NHS Constitution and how you live that value in the workplace?" Perhaps a simple enough question, but is it really that simple and easy to answer? That itself requires a degree of self-examination from each and every one of us.

So, here’s the irony: a health service that was established on the fundamental principles of compassion, dignity and respect, and ensuring everyone counts, does not always extend those same values to all its workforce. Ever since the inception of the NHS over 70 years ago, black and minority ethnic (BME) staff have made, and continue to make, significant contributions to our health service. Yet, the fact is that there lived experiences of the workplace do not reflect the values upon which the NHS proudly stands.

The Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) data present us with the clearest picture of the levels of discrimination felt by BME staff, and the lack of opportunities experienced. After three years of data collection and action planning for improvement at organisational level, we are beginning to see some early green shoots of hope; but we also know that there are still some organisations and parts of the NHS that have more work to do.

We are bold in our aspirations to improve the experience of our staff, and to increase BME representation across the workforce pipeline and at board levels across the NHS: a goal that has become the holy grail of all public-sector organisations. Through the model employer leadership strategy, the WRES presents NHS organisations with both the compass and the map for this journey. This agenda is important for staff engagement and patient satisfaction and for organisational efficiency.

A key enabler for shifting the dial on workforce race equality agenda is to tap into, and learn from, the lived experience of BME staff, so that we can shape interventions in a way that will tackle the root causes of issues in the workplace. Working collaboratively with key stakeholders to produce WRES digital staff stories, the WRES team has been doing just that. Creating a fair and more compassionate culture within our organisations, where everyone really does count, is our destination.

We also know that this is very much a journey - it is a marathon and not a sprint, and if we are to see meaningful and sustained improvements on the equality and inclusion agenda, then we must be both persistent and patient. As one chair of an NHS trust recently stated, “We must be dogged in our approach to this important agenda”.

Further information

This blog was published as part of Equality, Diversity and Human Rights Week. Find out more about diversity and inclusion in the NHS and learn more about the Workforce Race Equality Standard.

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