Southern Health’s response to the recent Government report on race and ethnic disparity

The Government’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparity has recently published a report about the national picture on race equality in the UK today.

Paul Draycott, Director of Workforce, Organisational Development and Communications

The report says that, whilst progress has been made, racism and racial disparity are still very real problems in our society. It sets out recommendations for action, against four themes:

  • Build Trust
  • Promote Fairness
  • Create Agency
  • Achieve Inclusivity

We welcome these recommendations, a number of which apply directly to the health and care system. We are looking closely at the recommendations alongside our own plans to improve diversity and inclusion, and reduce inequalities, to make sure we are taking on board any additional actions.

The report also looks at the extent to which ‘institutional racism’ exists in organisations in the country. It concludes that there is limited evidence of institutional racism. You may have seen in the media that various groups and individuals have challenged this finding, or said that it is disappointing or unhelpful.

I for one challenge this finding too.

It is important to be mindful of different definitions of institutional racism. Below is the definition that the report uses, taken from the MacPherson report in 1999:

“The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people.”

At Southern Health, we use a data-led approach to Diversity and Inclusion. We only have to look at the definition of institutional racism above, against the findings of the national NHS staff survey and Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) data — as well as the picture within this Trust — to see that there is clear evidence that it is still a problem within the NHS workforce.

For example:

  • Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic staff face more bullying, harassment and abuse compared to white staff in over 80% of NHS Trusts
  • White applicants are more likely to be appointed from shortlisting compared to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic applicants
  • Ethnic background continues to be the most common reason for discrimination
  • The report itself highlights the ethnicity pay gap in the NHS and calls for a strategic review at a national level.

NHS bodies such as NHS Confederation and NHS Providers are amongst those who have also challenged the view on institutional racism in this report.

Health inequalities

There is considerable evidence for health inequalities linked to ethnicity amongst patients and communities. For example, black men are around four times more likely to be detained under the mental health act compared to other ethnic groups. The underlying causes for these inequalities are complex and also linked to social factors but it is clear that we must act to better understand the situation and address the problem.

Health inequalities have been starkly highlighted by the disparity in COVID-19 outcomes amongst different groups during the pandemic, for which there is now overwhelming evidence.

There is also evidence to suggest that exposure to racism or worry about racism can result in chronic stress which may cause mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

Here at Southern Health, the Board remains committed to taking concrete action and working with others to tackle all forms of racism and to reduce inequalities experienced by our populations across the local health and care system.

Paul Draycott

Director of Workforce, Organisational Development and Communications

Our next blog will highlight what we are doing to tackle inequalities across the wider system of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight with our new system leads Pawan Lall and Leon Ghulam.

Southern Health provide community, specialist mental health and learning disability services for people across the south of England.