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Case Study: Diversity Training at Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust


Smiling crowd An equality and diversity staff development programme is helping one of the UK’s leading NHS Trusts to place increasing value on equality and inclusion, and to reap the rewards of a diverse workforce.

Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust is a busy and successful two-star Trust, which serves a population of around 350,000 in the areas of Chelmsford, Braintree, Witham, Maldon and Burnham. It has a diverse workforce and customer base.

Heather Taylor, Director of Workforce Development and Chris Stephenson, Director of HR, IT and Workforce Development at Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust, were already actively addressing the areas of equality and diversity within their organisation.

In line with the NHS Improving Working Lives Standard, a blueprint by which NHS employers and staff can measure the management of human resources, NHS Trusts are kite-marked against their ability to demonstrate a commitment to improving the working lives of their employees. Equality and diversity are central to the Improving Working Lives Standard – one of its central aims is that staff should feel valued and have a fair and equitable quality of working life, whatever their differences.

Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust’s enthusiastic workforce development team had responded swiftly to the Standard and taken an innovative approach to achieving its aims. The Trust had involved trade unions from an early stage, created a staff charter, a race equality scheme and an inventive range incentives and rewards, including flexible working and help with childcare.

In order to build on their existing success in this area, the Trust wanted an equality and diversity staff development programme that would:
* Challenge staff to acknowledge any subconscious biases and tendency to stereotype.
* Understand how prejudices manifest themselves as active discrimination.
* Highlight any inappropriate actions and lead to sustainable changes in behaviour.

Necessary learning outcomes included:
* A good basic understanding of the issues and legal requirements relating to the subject of equality and diversity.
* An awareness that just because people are ‘equal’ does not mean that they are the same as each other, or that their needs are the same.
* A clear understanding that the Trust expects all staff to treat their colleagues, patients, carers and visitors with respect and dignity – according to their diverse needs.

The Trust chose training company Academee to deliver this development. The company
began by carrying out a diversity and equality diagnostic ‘health check’ which identified areas for improvement as well as highlighting excellence. This diagnostic is to be repeated on an ongoing basis and regular reports produced to ensure that future learning and development is designed to meet the Trust’s ongoing needs.

The aim was to have the equality and diversity staff development programme integrated with other existing development programmes. It has become a key part of induction training for new staff, and also central to customer care training, which ensures that staff are increasingly sensitive to meeting the needs of different communities.

As part of the equality and diversity staff development programme, learners were encouraged to explore stereotypes of different groups, how they can be contradictory and how they vary depending on gender, age, ethnicity and geographic location. Cultural awareness, understanding other communities and individual characteristics are seen as fundamental to achieving sustainable change.

“We want to ensure we keep pace with new legislation and continue to build a positive and diverse culture,” says Taylor. “Feedback so far as been fantastic, and everyone who attended the pilot sessions immediately started spreading the word. Already, managers have a real sense of awareness. Many didn’t realise just how many areas equality and diversity touches. We are beginning to see real changes, such as in the language people use.”

The balance of theory and interactive practical work was judged to be just right, and the material used relevant to individual roles and to the Trust as a whole. On the whole, it is not only giving learners a better understanding of equality and diversity legislation, but also an increased awareness of how individual behaviour, prejudices and stereotypes impact on organisational life.


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