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This guest blog has been written Paul Deemer, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at NHS Employers, a sponsor of this year’s National Inclusion Week. 

By sharing a bit about how the NHS supports disabled employees in the workplace, Paul gives us some real-life examples of the impact and benefits of making inclusion an essential part of an organisation’s culture.  

Celebrating inclusion

Developing a truly diverse and inclusive workforce creates a culture that celebrates and draws on the skills and the valuable lived experiences of all employees. An organisation where everyone feels valued and cared for improves retention, has greater productivity and ultimately greater staff satisfaction, resulting in improved experiences and outcomes for patients and service users.

NHS organisations are rightly required to take action to address issues faced by disabled staff, such as patchy access to reasonable adjustments. So, it is now even more important than ever that the NHS is inclusive and welcomes disabled people.

Why the NHS is trying to be more disability inclusive

In a new report submitted to the United Nations (UN), the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) warned that many disabled people continue to face discrimination in the UK, and the situation is getting worse. However, within the NHS and the wider health and social care sector, there is hard work being undertaken to try to ensure that the workplace experience of disabled staff is improved. The NHS England EDI Improvement Plan sets out targeted actions to address the prejudice and discrimination faced by disabled staff and staff with other protected characteristics.

This November will see the NHS hold its annual Disability Summit. One of our summit’s themes is around making health and social care a safe and welcoming place for disabled people to work. The summit will showcase good practice around addressing pay gaps, embedding inclusive recruitment and talent management strategies, addressing health inequalities in the workforce and creating a psychologically safe working environment.

To create an inclusive workplace for disabled staff, it is important that NHS employers understand how many disabled staff they employ and the issues they face. However, the declaration of staff disability varies greatly between organisations, ranging from around 3.5 per cent to 12.5 per cent, whereas we know from the NHS Staff Survey that around 20 per cent of NHS staff have a disability. Some staff choose not to share that they have a disability, whereas others with long-term conditions such as cancer or mental health, may not be aware that their condition is defined under the Equality Act 2010 as a disability.

“There are inclusion strategies that NHS organisations are taking to encourage staff to disclose their disabilities. For example, NHS organisations have succeeded in raising their disability declaration rate by setting a target declaration rate and reporting progress on this monthly to the board.”

Inclusive Employers members can download the Diversity Data Guide for free to learn more about how to collect diversity data inclusively
A South Asian doctor putting on a medical mask before going into surgery

How the NHS is trying to be more disability inclusive

There are inclusion strategies that NHS organisations are taking to encourage staff to disclose their disabilities. For example, NHS organisations have succeeded in raising their disability declaration rate by setting a target declaration rate and reporting progress on this monthly to the board. The EDI (equality, diversity and inclusion) dashboard can be broken down by hospital department. Used effectively, this allows the organisation’s leadership to target support to those departments who are reporting lower rates and help them understand the reasons for this and use this to create improvements.

In organisations where line managers are confident discussing disability, this empowers them to have more meaningful conversations with staff about their disability and any reasonable adjustments they require. The NHS Staff Passport allows individuals to easily record information about their disability, any reasonable adjustments they require and any difficulties they face. It can be a helpful way for line managers to structure conversations with their direct reports about their disability and can be transferred from job to job.

One NHS Trust produced a video featuring disabled members of staff talking about the importance of declaring and the changes that had been made that helped them do their jobs. Importantly, this video featured the Chief People Officer, which demonstrated that the issue was taken seriously by the senior leadership team. This video is included as part of the induction process for new starters, to demonstrate the commitment to creating an inclusive workplace culture from the start of the employee journey.

To conclude…

So, returning to that EHRC report, how does the NHS square this circle? One answer is that we will continue to advocate and follow the social model of disability in workplaces. This means working on the basis that it is the physical and institutional norms of our society (including policies and practices) that create the barriers for disabled people, rather than their conditions, illnesses, or differences. In this way, we can create inclusive workplaces where disabled staff feel welcomed and ultimately provide a healthcare service that provides fair and equitable treatment to disabled people.

Thrive with inclusion experts by your side

Over 450 organisations have chosen us to be their Inclusion and Diversity partner. We provide expert bespoke workplace inclusion advice and practical impactful support, across all industries.

Join us and make inclusion an everyday reality.

Enquire about membership

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