Yvonne Coghill, director for the implementation of the Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) at NHS England, addresses attendees at the regional event

Tackling equality in North East public services

Regional event attracts NHS England race equality lead

Organisations across the North East were today challenged with exploring how they could improve equality and opportunities for black, Asian and minority and ethnic (BAME) people at an event hosted by North East Ambulance Service (NEAS), headed by keynote speaker, head of race equality for NHS England, Yvonne Coghill.

Almost 100 representatives from the public private and voluntary sector responded to the invitation from the regional NHS lead for equality, NEAS Chief Executive Yvonne Ormston, to understand the obstacles faced by BAME people and organisations wanting to improve their approach to race equality for existing and future employees, service users and customers.

Yvonne Coghill is director for the implementation of the Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) at NHS England. The WRES is designed to ensure employees from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds have equal access to career opportunities and receive fair treatment in the workplace, which is important because studies shows that a motivated, included and valued workforce are more productive and help to deliver high quality patient care, increased patient satisfaction and better patient safety.

She said: “We have to value and appreciate every member of NHS staff to make sure we get the best from them and they give their very best to care for patients.

“The evidence shows that the experience of black and minority ethnic staff is a very good barometer of the climate of respect and care for all within NHS trusts.”

The ambulance sector is considered to perform less well than other NHS organisations for race equality, however, the make-up of its workforce is very different to that of NHS organisations because it does not currently attract specialist healthcare roles, such as doctors. 

NEAS chief executive Yvonne Ormston is the regional NHS lead looking to improve equality for people from different races and she also has national responsibility for equality across the ambulance sector. She explains why she felt the event was necessary to make a difference: “We want to make sure our service treats BAME people fairly, gives them the same opportunities and provides a comprehensive service irrespective of an individuals’ characteristics or background. We know that we can do that better in this region by working in partnership with our neighbouring colleagues by bringing together people from our fire, police, healthcare, local authority, voluntary and community organisations.”

The North East has a less ethnically diverse population that the national average with just over six percent of people from non-White British backgrounds. Only 53 per cent of BAME people in this region aged 16 to 64 are employed, which is 12 per cent lower than the national average. Almost 16 per cent of BAME people in the North East are unemployed compared to 11 per cent of the region’s overall population. And over 36 percent per cent of the region’s BAME population are recorded as economically inactive, compared to just 26 per cent for the overall region’s population. 

Evidence globally suggests that people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds (BME) that live in white majority countries like the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have poorer life chances and experiences compared to their white counterparts. For example, BAME people are more likely to experience chronic diseases and die sooner, they make less money over their lifetime and are less likely to be promoted, they live in poorer areas and they are more likely to be imprisoned.

Yvonne continues: “Understanding the challenges BAME people face is really important for us to identify where we can make changes and be more proactive to improve equality in this region. 

“We have been able to explore some of the key challenges faced by the health sector and other organisations today and had the opportunity to listen to and share experiences and best practice around race equality and get helpful advice and information from partners and NHS England about what people can do to overcome some of the challenges.  And above all, we have now created a network of expertise across the region that we can build upon.”

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