NHS goals to improve equality within the NHS

ACTO Inclusion & Diversity director Olivia Djouadi gives her views on the NHS’ equality objectives

NHS England and NHS Improvement has six objectives (see in the table below) which seek to improve equality and specifically to ensure that there is a better overall experience for patients and staff alike within the NHS.

In this article, I will explain what each of the goals are – and why they are relevant.

The equality objectives for NHS England and NHS Improvement for 2020/21 addressed our role as an NHS system leader, commissioner and our own role as an employer. The seven overall objectives are:

1. To improve the capability of NHS England’s commissioners, policy staff and others to understand and address the legal obligations under the PSED and duties to reduce health inequalities set out in the Health and Social Care Act 2012.
2. To improve disabled staff representation, treatment and experience in the NHS and their employment opportunities within the NHS.
3. To improve the experience of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People (LGBT+) patients and improve LGBT+ staff representation.
4. To reduce language barriers experienced by individuals and specific groups of people who engage with the NHS, with specific reference to identifying how to address issues in relation to health inequalities and patient safety.
5. To improve the mapping, quality and extent of equality information in order to better facilitate compliance with the PSED in relation to patients, service-users and service delivery.
6. To improve the recruitment, retention, progression, development and experience of the people employed by NHS England to enable the organisation to become an inclusive employer of choice.
7. To ensure that the equality and health inequality impacts of COVID-19 are fully considered and that clear strategies are developed and implemented for the NHS workforce and patients. To ensure that the proposed NHS People Plan and patient focused strategies reflect this and make an effective contribution to advancing equality for all protected characteristics and to reducing associated health inequalities.

The Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED)

The PSED requires all public authorities including the NHS to consider whether they should take action to meet these needs or reduce the inequalities.

In its assessment, the PSED observed that there were inequalities evident – especially during the pandemic. During this time, most staff in the NHS were overwhelmed by the impact of the health crisis and therefore were focused on trying to provide the best care that they could in the circumstances. Patient care had also shifted in unexpected ways with waiting lists growing exponentially. So, objectives and goals were agreed to attempt to ease some of the discrimination that had been identified.

Review of the Objectives

Objective 1: This aims to help the NHS to gain a better view of the current situation and areas that need improvement. This would enable staff to reduce inequalities and understand their legal duties.

Objective 2: The second goal concerns staff with disabilities and how advancements were possible.  This would mean better treatment and not being passed over when those with disabilities get an equal opportunity to other staff.

Objective 3: This aims to help staff feel more supported at work and improve the LGBTQI+ patient experience. This can also assist to lower the additional barriers that may cause some to shy away from healthcare in the UK and go abroad.

Objective 4: The fourth objective relates to the language barriers that impact on patient safety and health inequality. Interpreters are not always immediately available and family members may not always be able to translate medical or psychological information.

Objective 5: This goal explains the importance of making information about the legal duty for inequality available for everyone. It also needs to be understandable to staff and patients alike, with copies available for those that do not have internet access.

Objective 6: This final objective seeks to improve staff morale and reduce the numbers of people leaving the NHS. Many staff members have left due to exhaustion. Despite the pandemic, the NHS continues through to provide a full schedule of appointments, arguably helped by the high numbers of people vaccinated against COVID-19.

To help to understand what it has been like for staff during the pandemic I recommend reading Life, Death and Biscuits by Anthea Allen published 17 February 2022. Please feel free to get in touch with me with your views on this crucial area.

Olivia Djouadi

Inclusion & Diversity director, ACTO.

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