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NHS sees equality duty as 'box ticking'


Concern has been expressed that nurses who are disabled or from ethnic minorities could face discrimination after a report claimed most NHS bodies treated duties to reduce inequalities as a “box ticking exercise”.

A report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission rated the performance of NHS bodies against their legal duties on race, disability and gender equality, which came into force in April.

Of the 19 primary care trusts and nine strategic health authorities examined, none “was likely to be fully performing” their duties, and “most were likely to have significant failings in performance”.

It said performing the duties was “regarded by the majority of authorities and trusts as a ‘box ticking’ exercise and only rarely encompassed the achievement of equality outcomes in practice”.

Royal College of Nursing England Director Tom Sandford told Nursing Times that tighter finances meant “vulnerable people in the nursing workforce are going to be more at risk”.

Mr Sandford voiced fear that staff with disabilities could be “disproportionately” hit by job losses.


Readers' comments (7)

  • What are these duties and areas of "significant failings in performance"? Is this more lazy reporting by NT or are the EHRC keeping their cards close to their chests?

    Equality & Diversity is an industry in itself and it wouldn't surprise me a bit if this is an exercise in self preservation in the face of cuts and economy drives.

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  • "Equality & Diversity is an industry in itself and it wouldn't surprise me a bit if this is an exercise in self preservation in the face of cuts and economy drives."

    Although I agree with your comment about the detail in the article, your second comment leads me to ask what your experience is in relation to E&D issues? It would be wonderful if we lived in a world where the E&D "industry" wasn't required, but sadly (from personal experience) we don't. As Tom Sandford says, the recession is actually heightening problems:

    - "reasonable adjustments" become less reasonable if cost any time/money (however short-sighted given the probably much greater costs to organisation & individual of those adjustments not being in place. They weren't even adjustments in my case initially, merely Occ Health stating that PDPs/feedback would be health protective and more important)
    - levels of stress are likely to be heightened for everyone due to staffing/resource pressures & stress can have a destabilising affect on multiple long-term conditions
    - cuts to services risk increasing stress on vulnerable people, & it's far easier to cut services where those affected have less voice +/& evidence of effectiveness may be more qualitative research data vs quantitative (money people prefer that)
    - usefully for employers, when the stigma/discrimination that exist even without a recession, affect your health/attendance they have a "reason" to get rid of you when looking for staffing cuts

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  • This page links you to the full document:

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  • Anonymous | 2-Aug-2011 3:25 pm

    As a Nurse with a disability, I can assure you that there is widespread discrimination against those with who are disabled.

    Since having cancer in 2004, I developed arm lymphoedema. I tried for some time to carry on in the A&E post that I loved. No attempt was made to look at or assess myself and my role to see if any adjustments could be made. After 2 years of trying, I had to give it up, so applied and secured a more physically suitable job, but at a lower band in the community. After several years, our programme was cut in the NHS drive to save money. I was offered five redeployment opportunities that were completely beyond my capabilities, before myself and my union threatened to take the trust to court. I finally found myself a better job and was redeployed into it.

    I have had to listen to ignorant and discriminatory comments and suggestions from a variety of areas within the NHS; most notably from HR. In the face of cuts and economy drives, I am confident that this sort of treatment will only get worse for minority groups.

    The problem is that this attitude is endemic within the NHS. From simple lack of awareness, to cynical and unfair comments and treatment, I know that there are others who will recognise my experience. Discrimination is discrimination, and it is against the law.

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  • Anonymous | 2-Aug-2011 5:24 pm

    I'm really sorry to read what happened to you, but glad you've finally found a better post.

    "From simple lack of awareness, to cynical and unfair comments and treatment, I know that there are others who will recognise my experience." - Yes, particularly with reference to HR. A manager should have awareness of the legislation/procedures/terms and conditions but not have had many dealings with them; HR should know them in detail and do have the experience. I've typed/deleted the next sentence several times but now given up on trying to find a 'polite' way to express my feelings about HR's role!

    I don't know which union you are/were, but are you aware the RCN's doing some work around disabled nurses just now?

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  • snowy_owl | 2-Aug-2011 6:47 pm

    Thanks for your comments Snowy Owl. Yes, I am a member of RCN and they were extremely helpful. What I wrote previously was a very brief synopsis of what actually occurred.

    I have had to become something of an expert in Equality legislation. EHRC were also of great help. One of the main things we were able to bring to light, was that the trust policies involving equality and discrmination issues had failed equality impact assessments. They had been sent back to the policy makers with a demand that they be substantially re-written. And these were the policies they were adhering to when dealing with my case!

    In my current job, my condition is absolutely no barrier. No adjustments have been required. However, I remain angry that some sensible adjustments, better educated managers, an Occupational Health service that actually did its job and Human Resources that treated people like Humans, might have prevented me from leaving a job I loved, dropping a band and having to spend so many years fighting with idiots.

    I am a mentally robust individual, who was well supported by family, friends, my union and the EHRC. Yet, I still came out second best here. I know that there are many who are too busy keeping their heads above water to have energy left to struggle against discrimination.

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  • Hi there,

    Good to hear about the union support.

    I _was_ a mentally robust individual who, despite having the same long-term condition throughout my c.15yrs nursing career had never had any adjustments, 1 period of sick leave about 9yrs ago & ?1 day off with an infection in 2yrs preceding the leaking of my equal ops form. I can't give details of what followed as ongoing, but 4yrs later I can no longer claim to be mentally robust as well as health/sick record being affected, but any HR manager or nurse should recognise those as the effects of prolonged stress. Stigma means it is put down to my underlying condition.

    Anyway, it's good to hear about the support you got from all around you, & to hear it work out for someone, & that there is light at the end of the tunnel. But, back to the article/your original comment, neither of us should have had to go through our experiences in the 1st place, & that E&D "industry" is needed.

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