On Friday 16 September 2011, I had my first official assignment as a reporter for Operation Black Vote (OBV).
I was covering “The Big Move”, the NHS BME Network's first anniversary conference, held at the Hilton Hotel on London's Park Lane.
Last month saw the NHS BME Network celebrate their first anniversary at a conference titled "The Big Move" held at the Hilton Hotel on London's Park Lane.
The NHS BME Network was launched in June 2010 to be an independent and effective voice for BME staff, patients, service users and carers to ensure the NHS delivers on its statutory duties regarding race equality.
Dr Vivienne Lyfar-Cisse, the Transitional Lead for the NHS BME Network, spoke at the event on a range of issues including the unfair treatment of BME staff. She cited the prevalence of institutional racism and the detrimental impact it could have to staff and the service if not dealt with.
In the past five years forced detention and medication of people under the Mental Health Act has increased significantly for many BME communities and ethnic health inequalities remain a major area of concern. The unfair treatment of BME staff as a result of institutional racism is prevalent and without intervention is likely to deteriorate further during the reconfiguration of the NHS. However, the reality is it does not have to be like this.
Dr Lyfar-Cisse added:
It is evident that the NHS is going through the biggest "shake up" since it was established in 1948. Whatever we think of the current NHS reforms the reconfiguration process provides us with an ideal opportunity to effect change for the benefit of BME people, if we are prepared to "stand up and be counted". It is time for us to show how we intend to make the difference.
As part of the conference, a workshop was held on the Equality Delivery System (EDS) to assess if it was fit for purpose in terms of delivering race equality. EDS went live in July/August 2011 and its purpose is to improve equality performance and embed equality into mainstream NHS business. The ambition is that equality should lie at the heart of the NHS - its values, processes and behaviours.
Embarrassingly, despite working for the Government until very recently, despite having worked in the NHS as a manager and as a management consultant, and despite having a passionate and keen interest in diversity and equality issues generally, the first time I had heard of the Equality Delivery System (EDS) for the NHS was this Conference.
The EDS has been designed as an optional tool to support NHS commissioners and providers to deliver better outcomes for patients and communities and better working environments for staff, which are personal, fair and diverse. The EDS is all about making positive differences to healthy living and working lives.
However, it is facing an uphill struggle. Firstly, EDS is an optional tool. This means that it is something NHS managers could see as a luxury, an add-on, especially in a time of severe budget cuts and pressure on spending. Furthermore, although the NHS BME Network had gone to a lot of effort to consult, bring people together, and submit a response about the EDS, which they sent to the Department of Health for consideration, their efforts were not acknowledged.
It is now up to BME staff, carers and patients to work together, in collaboration and in partnership, with their local health services to put pressure on their NHS management to ensure that they are taking the EDS seriously and implementing it effectively, and that an evaluation of its impact is carried out. Race equality in the NHS, both for BME patients and for BME staff, is long overdue. It is about time race equality became a reality within Britain's NHS both for patients and staff.
copyright © Rakshita Patel 2011
For further information about the NHS BME Network follow the link: