Making progress as we go into 2018

The Co-Chair of the Equality and Diversity Council (EDC) looks at the focus on vital:

The first formal meeting of the newly formed EDC, following a workshop in July, saw an excellent and wide ranging discussion about a number of key areas.

These included the key publications by the Cabinet Office and the Care Quality Commission (CQC), about the EDC work programme for 2017-2018, and updates on the launch of the Sexual Orientation Monitoring Standard as well as progress with the NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) and NHS Workforce Disability Standard (WDES).

The publications by the Cabinet Office, the Race Disparity Audit – published on the 10 October as an audit of public services to reveal racial disparities and to help end the injustices that many people experience in their day-to-day lives – and the CQC, “Equally Outstanding” – a resource that considers how a focus on equality and human rights can improve care quality in times of financial constraint – identified many common themes.

These included the importance of bringing existing data together to help shine a light on how our public services treat people from different backgrounds, and that understanding ethnic disparities in health is complex and involves considering a range of factors.

The EDC concluded that the NHS is in a very good place to start to analyse the patterns of illness, prevalence and outcomes for ethnic minorities in contact with the health services. Currently the collection of ethnicity data from patients is not used enough to help understand patterns of illness and use of services in a systematic way. This is something that can be done relatively easily as extensive sets of statistics are available.

These reports helped frame the discussions in relation to the EDC work programmes for 2017-18. The EDC wants to ensure the scope and work plans are more closely aligned to improving care for the people we serve. Never has it been more important to deliver the priorities within the Five Year Forward View Next Steps which matter most to patients, services users, communities and the NHS workforce.

The EDC agreed to three substantive work programmes in relation to:

  • Supporting the system – building on the work of EDS2 and the Race Disparity Audit how we can best support the system to bring about change;
  • Quality – how we can narrow the gap in terms of the disproportionate treatment and care outcomes for people using mental health, learning disabilities and cancer services and how we can work with the new system architecture such as STPs;
  • Leadership and capacity – looking at how we can improve system leadership on inclusion, linking into the work on the WDES and WRES and how we can increase BME representation at senior levels.

When discussing the launch of the Sexual Orientation Monitoring information standard, whilst EDC was pleased to see the standard’s publication, the arising environment of negativity around the equalities agenda was noted. This requires necessary guardianship from all members of the EDC, proving the benefits of a society that is proud to be inclusive.

Going forward there is a need for the EDC to connect locally and strategically, particularly at Board governance level. It was agreed that there was a need to strengthen links to ensure greater mutual understanding of work that is going on at both a national and local level.

The next meeting of the EDC is at the end of January and I look forward to seeing progress on these important work areas as we move into 2018.

Joan Saddler

Joan Saddler is Associate Director of Patients and Communities at the NHS Confederation.

She was formerly National Director of Patient and Public Affairs based within the Patient and Public Engagement and Experience Division at the Department of Health. Areas of responsibility included NHS and 3rd sector liaison, complaints, local involvement networks (LINks) and transition to Healthwatch.

As a former PCT Chair and Mental Health trust Non Executive Joan also brings a governance lens to her work along with her experience as a Chief Executive within the community and voluntary sector.

Joan was awarded an OBE for services to Health and Diversity in 2007. Her experience informs her role working with the Chief Executive of NHS England as Co-Chairs of the NHS Equality and Diversity Council.