Now is the time for clear NHS action to tackle racism

Now is the time for clear NHS action to tackle racism

The United Nation’s International Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination has been marked by a call for each NHS organisation in the North West to take “bold and effective” action to tackle racism and inequalities.

The call has been made by the North West Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Strategic Advisory Group (also known as the NHS North West Assembly), following the UN event on Sunday, 21 March. The Assembly was formed last year and consists of 70 senior NHS Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic leaders from NHS organisations across the region.

The Assembly Co-Chairs, Evelyn Asante-Mensah, who is also Chair of Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, and NHS England/Improvement Regional Director Bill McCarthy, have sent a letter calling for further action to every NHS organisation in the region.

Evelyn said: “We recognise the progress which has been made by the NHS in tackling racism and inequalities, but we are also clear that more must be done.

“NHS organisations must be at the forefront of challenging and tackling racism and the health inequalities faced and experienced by staff and people in our communities.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the issue of inequalities into stark relief and no-one should wait to take action. We should all work to make a difference every day.”

Evelyn added: “The Assembly is challenging each organisation to take bold and effective actions, developed in conjunction with their staff and communities, to ensure that we are using the power of the NHS to make life in the region fairer for everyone.

“We have asked each organisation in the North West to send us details of their plans to do this. We will be reviewing these plans to share best practice, so that good ideas in one area can quickly benefit communities across the region. However, we will also act as critical friends, challenging for more to be done by organisations where we see gaps.”

Dr Dheraj Bisarya, a local GP and GP executive lead at NHS West Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “The CCG recognises that there is a need to further develop race equality in our organisation and throughout the wider NHS.

“As an employer, the CCG is highly committed to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, which is reflected in the significant work the CCG has undertaken to implement actions and recommendations contained in the NHS People Plan and aligning this with existing NHS mandated standards such as the Workforce Race Equality Standard and the Equality Delivery System. Our commitment is further detailed in the CCG’s Equality and Inclusion Policy and accompanying Equality and Inclusion Strategy; and is also reflected throughout the CCG’s wider policies and procedures.

“In conjunction with our local partners we have developed an Inequalities Oversight Group, which aims to hold partners to account for ensuring that commissioned services have regard to the deepening and widening inequalities faced by specific groups and communities that have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Assembly members have already been playing a key role in promoting the COVID-19 vaccine amongst their networks and local communities.

In addition, the Assembly is developing work programmes to look at some key areas where ethnic minority communities have worse health outcomes than the general population – cancer, maternity and mental health.

Evelyn added: “The Assembly’s role as the collective will of NHS organisations across the North West is a to make a significant and sustained change to what really matters to our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic colleagues and communities, tackling inequalities and taking positive action on racism.

“We can best do this by ensuring that tackling racism and inequalities becomes business-as-usual for every single NHS organisation in the North West.”