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Keep score and help to ensure fair play

Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust equality lead Ricky Somal explains how a ‘workforce diversity scorecard’ is being used to tackle inequalities at the trust and provide a better understanding of the impact on black and minority ethnic staffof key employment issues.

The patient experience and improving outcomes are central to the strategy, says associate director of nursing Liz Taylor

Having a robust approach to equality and diversity is a good thing – but how do you know if your policy is making a difference?

In 2012, Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust launched a ‘workforce diversity scorecard’. Part of the trust’s new equality standard, the scorecard uses data to track the effects of key employment issues – such as recruitment and selection, bullying and harassment, and disciplinary procedures – across the nine protected characteristics of the workforce, including ethnicity.

‘Detailed analysis of the data means we can identify any groups that are over or under-represented,’ explains trust equality and diversity lead Ricky Somal. ‘It is important to be able to measure the programme and demonstrate its effect.’

With a staff of around 7,000, the trust is one of the largest providers of health and social care in the UK. It delivers community health care, mental health, learning disability and adult social care services across Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

When figures from the scorecard highlighted greater involvement of black and minority ethnic (BME) staff in disciplinary procedures compared with their white colleagues, Mr Somal was able to dig further into the statistics to pinpoint exactly which groups were being affected. ‘It is not just about raw data,’ he says. ‘It is about the insights relevant data can provide our workforce.’

Mr Somal discovered that those most affected were black British, with 16% of such staff being involved in disciplinary procedures, despite making up less than 4% of the workforce.

‘This means we can target our approach to those specific sections,’ he says. ‘Having this quality of evidence and intelligence means that we are not relying on assumptions. I am not sure other trusts have this level of detail.’

Vox Pop

To start tackling the issue, Mr Somal devised a programme of engagement, including training for managers on the trust’s values, and exploring conscious and unconscious bias.

The issue was also discussed at a quarterly meeting of the trust’s 350-strong diversity champions’ network, Vox Pop, where staff were invited to share their views on the underlying causes.

The scorecard, network and training programme are elements of a five-point plan which also includes the trust’s equality standard and an equality impact group that measures and monitors diversity performance across the entire organisation. The ‘diversity moments’ training programme includes induction, e-learning, assessment and face-to-face opportunities for learning.

The trust is also investigating the working lives of BME staff through structured interviews and events.

‘What we do know is that the first three months in a job are critical,’ says Mr Somal. ‘At that point you either feel immersed in the organisation or in conflict because your values do not match.’

The trust aims to capture the experiences of BME staff over their first year-and-a-half in post, talking to them after three, six, 12 and 18 months. ‘We want to find out if they are where they want to be, whether they have the right support for their learning and development, and whether there is anything we can do to help them progress,’ says Mr Somal.

Staff can also comment on their experiences through the annual ‘taking the temperature’ exercise. This provides a benchmark of how various leadership and development initiatives are working in practice.

The trust’s associate director of nursing and allied health professionals, Liz Taylor, is also a senior equality lead. For her, the real test of the strategy is its effect on patients. ‘The values of our organisation are clear. It is all about the patient experience and improving outcomes for them,’ she says. ‘But if staffare unhappy, they won’t deliver the best care.’

She believes that equality and diversity issues for the workforce are integrally linked to tackling inequalities in patient health.

‘What differentiates us as a trust is that we understand equality and diversity needs to be embedded into the clinical side too,’ says Ms Taylor. ‘It is mirrored everywhere, with everyone expected to have these discussions.’

The quality of evidence means that we are not relying on assumptions

One example of this approach is the trust’s leadership development programme. This includes Going Viral, a nine-and-a-half day course taking place over six months and involving managers from different departments. It encourages teams to redesign their services to enhance the patient experience.

Tangible results

A recent initiative has focused on people the trust never usually sees. ‘We have been contacting families who don’t ever access our services to see if there is anything we can do differently,’ says Ms Taylor. ‘For example, if we opened later or on Saturdays might they be more likely to use us? We cover a big area, and one size definitely does not fit all.’

Equality and diversity lead Ricky Somal: ‘It’s not just about raw data’

Picture credit: Chris Balcombe

The strategy used by Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust has already delivered tangible results, with the numbers of disciplinary procedures for black British staff reducing by half since 2013.

‘Our qualitative and quantitative research gives us a more accurate picture of what is going on, which then informs our engagement with staff,’ says Mr Somal.

Equality monitoring overall has also improved – staff disclosing their disability status has increased by 24%, those disclosing their religion or belief has increased by 20%, and sexual orientation by 19%.

Mr Somal’s advice is now being sought by other NHS trusts, including Portsmouth Hospitals, Solent and North Middlesex University Hospital. He says: ‘We have started a journey, and I am positive about its future’.

Top tips for workforce equality

Use a scorecard to give a more accurate portrayal of your organisation’s employee relations performance. This can be used to identify development, talent management and leadership opportunities for staff.

Think about the effects of equality and diversity on patient care. As well as tackling workforce inequality, think about how you can reduce health inequalities for patients.

See equality and diversity as an opportunity to forge relationships and drive innovation across the whole organisation.

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