The journey to improving EDI at an NHS trust

EDI lead Carol Verner shares how Kettering General Hospital is striving for inclusion

A recent global CEO survey by Fortune and Deloitte shows that CEO commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) has grown over the past year, including increases in organisations building DE&I into strategic priorities/goals (92%) and disclosing DE&I metrics to employees (72%).

One NHS trust in Kettering has been on a journey to improve its performance on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI). Kettering General Hospital (KGH) provides acute healthcare services for the people of North Northamptonshire and South Leicestershire. It’s one of the largest employers in the area with around 4,000 staff, with around a quarter from ethnic backgrounds.

We’ve completely overhauled our EDI strategy over the past two years, which included rebranding our EDI networks, introducing training programmes to promote an inclusive culture and collaborating with Recruitment, Learning and Development and Employment Relations teams to make EDI a golden thread within the hospital.

Here are some of our achievements to date.

Creating safe spaces for staff

KGH’s EDI ambition is to ensure all those from the nine protected characteristics (age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnerships, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation) as identified by the Equality Act 2010 have more safe spaces.

These spaces enable staff to have a voice and speak up, including having honest conversations about work-life experiences, wellbeing, development and any other issues of concern while influencing changes to be implemented within the Trust.

We provide these spaces through several EDI networks that are there to support staff from different backgrounds and walks of life. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, when it was recognised that people urgently needed support, it was felt that staff weren’t engaging with these networks, and many didn’t even know they existed.

This needed to change. We started by renaming our largest EDI network, the BAME (Black Asian and Minority Ethnic) network, to REACH (Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage), as some people felt the phrase BAME is self-discriminating. REACH felt more inclusive. This was well received, and this network now has around 400 members.

Other networks include a Disability and Wellbeing Support (DAWS) network, an LGBTQ+ network, a Young Peers network to ensure all key needs for younger members of staff and apprentices are addressed and a gender equality network which deals with everything from gender pay gap issues to childcare. All offer a safe space for people to talk freely and receive support.

The continuing growth of members for all networks has had a positive impact in enhancing a culture of inclusivity and ensuring staff feel able to bring their whole selves to work, giving a sense of belonging. We have also used these to build trust with those who are disengaged so they also can have an impact on inclusivity within the Trust.

Part of the work to promote these networks was to ensure we had senior management buy-in. All networks are fully supported by the leadership team and sponsored by the board. Each network has at least one Co-chair – who has one day-a-month protected time to focus on the network. If issues arise, the co-chairs and networks work closely with HR to manage, address and resolve matters.

We also have resolution pathways that have been communicated out via the intranet, WhatsApp groups, organisational weekly emails, staff Facebook group, EDI Twitter feed, EDI network meetings and EDI Training and Facilitation session so people understand their different ways to raise issues aiming to lead to some form of resolution.

Training and accountability

Training has been a key part of our journey to help make staff more accountable and understand what acceptable behaviour is. One training initiative called ‘Building Cultural Bridges’ focuses on talking about issues, including understanding the history of racism, racism and micro-aggression, homophobia, sexual harassment, cultural perceptions and unconscious bias.

The aim is to empower individuals to be culturally aware and sensitive and to create an inclusive culture where everyone has a sense of belonging. We’ve also introduced inclusive Recruitment Champions who we train to spot unconscious bias and help managers make more informed decisions.

So far, they have trained more than 30 colleagues since September 2021. All job roles at Band 7 (manager level) and above, as well as all medical and dental posts, should have a champion on the interview panel. The future is to support shortlisting once more colleagues are trained.

Other activities have included marking key calendar events, such as Black History Month, to promote inclusivity. Last year we ran the inspiring ‘Proud to be’ campaign and shared poignant stories from staff to promote diversity and inclusion. This was launched with a staff video, which included an introduction from our Group CEO.

We have also recently been awarded the Disability Confident Leader status, part of the Government’s Disability Confident scheme. Taking part in the process has been extremely beneficial as we’ve collated information to support all recruiting managers and employees relating to any disability needs, as well as raised the profile of our DAWS network.

We are working on producing videos to help amplify what being a Disability Confident Leader means to our patients, applicants, employees and the community we serve as well as other NHS Trusts. The EDI mandatory training for all staff will now include what the Disability Confident Leader accreditation means for all staff and managers.

Collaborative work led by the recruitment team is also ongoing to look at the design of our adverts, application, recruitment, and selection processes to make them more equitable for those with disabilities.

By making EDI a priority, we’re seeing a real culture change across the organisation. A clear vision and strategy, together with collaboration, is creating a workplace where everyone feels they belong, with the support they need to thrive in their careers and have a positive impact on both colleagues and patients.

Kettering General Hospital is part of the University Hospitals of Northamptonshire NHS Group, which has the vision to be an inclusive leader in healthcare. We welcomed Matt Asbury in July 2022 as the newly appointed Group Head of Organisational Development and Inclusion, coming from Hometon as their Head of Culture to help us on this journey.

Carol Verner was shortlisted in the Inspiring Diversity and Inclusion Lead category of The National BAME Health & Care Awards 2022. Nominations are now open for 2023. You can nominate yourself, colleague or an organisation for free. Find out more about the awards here.

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