Blog post

Addressing shattered hopes

To address the findings of the NHS Confederation’s Shattered Hopes report, we must face the deep-rooted cultures of race inequality in the system.
Rob Webster, Fatima Khan-Shah

4 August 2022

Rob Webster and Fatima Khan-Shah share their aspirations for addressing race inequality in the NHS, and the steps that are being taken in the West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership.

Advocating for race equality when you are from a minority community comes with personal and professional risk. The recent Shattered Hopes report from the NHS Confederation revealed that half of colleagues participating in the survey (51 per cent) had considered leaving the NHS in the past three years because of their experience of racism while performing their role as an NHS leader. This was sadly not a surprise.  We know through our work at West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership on this important agenda that this is a reality that many of our colleagues have faced.

…to deliver true transformational change we need to focus purely on the issue of race - not because we see people as one dimensional, but because unless there is focus, change cannot happen

The evidence is clear that to address this injustice we need a whole leadership effort and to develop a workforce that feels included and valued. This will enable us to deliver high-quality patient care, increased patient satisfaction, better patient safety and supported staff retention. We recognise that to deliver true transformational change we need to focus purely on the issue of race - not because we see people as one dimensional, but because unless there is focus, change cannot happen. 

Leadership that reflects our communities

Our aspiration is to have a leadership that truly reflects the communities of West Yorkshire and to ensure that the poor experiences in the workplace that are encountered every day by colleagues from minority communities, will be consigned to history. To make this a reality requires a clear plan of action focusing on influence, culture, workforce, involvement, communications and, of course, impact and measurement.

…we will need to work together to address the deep-rooted cultures of race inequality in the system.  As a leadership we accept that this will be uncomfortable and that we need to lean into discomfort

We have developed a strategic approach to race equality with us all united behind one clear vision, supported by a clear plan for delivery. We want to become a partnership where all people of all races feel enabled to work comfortably with race equality. We recognise that to achieve this we will need to work together to address the deep-rooted cultures of race inequality in the system.  As a leadership we accept that this will be uncomfortable and that we need to lean into discomfort.

Recognising talent and removing barriers

We are striving proactively to search out and recognise the talent within our organisations and see and understand the barriers they encounter. Our first step is to implement an approach which enables us to develop a pipeline of talent. Our award-winning Fellowship is proof that the talent definitely exists and addressing this gap is possible.

The Shattered Hopes report refers to colleagues experiencing racism - something which we have heard loud and clear from colleagues here in West Yorkshire. Our response is to use the influence of our partners as employers as well as leaders across the area to develop the Root out Racism movement, which supports our work to become an Anti-Racist Partnership. Co-produced with the West Yorkshire Race Equality Network, the campaign amplifies the lived experience of colleagues who have experienced racism. The movement is a high-profile call to action across our area and has resulted in nearly 600 organisations in health, care and beyond registering their support. Colleagues putting their face to such a high-profile movement takes both courage and bravery.

We genuinely believe that to address the findings of the Shattered Hopes report we need to have an approach that is proactive and addresses the systemic historic issues that exist within our organisations. We know that ultimately only sustained efforts and action can address this over the long-term, requiring all of us as leaders to recognise and use our privilege to truly embody the meaning of an ally. We need to stop admiring the problem and do something about it.

Rob Webster CBE is CEO lead for West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership and CEO for NHS West Yorkshire Integrated Care Board.

Fatima Khan-Shah is associate director of long term conditions and personalisation for West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership, and convenor of the West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership Race Equality Network.

You can follow Rob, Fatima and the West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership on Twitter:  

Rob Webster: @nhs_robw 

Fatima Khan-Shah: @shutcake 

@WYHpartnership