Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust – The Power Of Inclusion

Stuart Young
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Here at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, we are aiming to be the local employer of choice in an area of the country that has lots of opportunities for staff to work within the NHS and wider Health and Social Care Setting.

Our trust established our people pledges to demonstrate to our current and future workforce the type of organisation we are and our aspirations, to allow all staff to be able to bring their whole selves to work.

The people pledges looked at making a difference to the working lives of all of our staff and to ensure that all members of the organisation felt that they were a part of the SWBH Family and that they are valued as such.

We decided to establish three staff networks, one for our Black, Minority Ethnic and Asian Community called the BME Staff Network, one for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community called the LGBT Staff Network and one for those with a disability along with staff who have a long term medical conditions called the Disability and Long Term Conditions Network. These groups have been established by staff within our organisation that self-define as belonging to one or more off these groups, however all members of staff are able to join and the value of our networks is increased by the attendance of their allies. To ensure that each of the networks has the ability to effect change within in our organisation they each have an Executive Director as a sponsor alongside being supported by the Diversity and Inclusion team.

Each of the networks have elected Chairs and Vice Chairs who help to steer the work of each group. They have their own social media platforms as well as pages on our internal internet, where staff can access information about each group and see the great work they are doing through regular updates.

Two of the three networks established themselves quite quickly, the third has taken longer to foster and to get off the ground; however all of them are making a tangible difference to the way in which our organisation operates, the culture we have and the wellbeing of all of our colleagues.

Since their inception the staff networks have had a key role and prominence in our trusts work to recruit and retain staff, having a visual presence at our trust induction, attending student nurse recruitment events, having stalls at Health and Wellbeing events as well as the trust annual general meeting. They have joined in celebrating International Nurses Day and highlighted and championed key events within each of the networks.

Our networks have a good virtual presence not just through their own social media platforms of facebook, twitter and Instagram but by working in partnership with the trust to utilise the communication channels within the organisation including the internal internet pages and the trust social media pages. In addition to this the networks have had the constant support of our Chief Executive Toby Lewis who regularly mentions all three staff networks on his twitter account, highlighting the work, campaigns and issues that they are leading on.

Our LGBT Staff Network organised for our trust to celebrate LGBT History Month for the first time in 2017. They created a number of visual displays that went up in over fifteen different locations within the trust, they invited the Head of Diversity from the Royal College of Nursing to come in and deliver a powerful presentation on the difference a lone voice can make when speaking up, they ensured that an LGBT Hero was celebrated each day in our internal communications looking at the achievements of members of the LGBT community have made in the past and currently.

We have given out to staff within our trust more than two thousand Rainbow Lanyards with the LGBT Staff Networks twitter handle on showing that they are a member of the LGBT community or that they are an allies of the community.

In May 2017 SWBH attended Birmingham Pride for the first time, and thanks to members of the LGBT Staff Network, we not only had a presence in the parade, alongside other NHS providers we also had a stall within Birmingham Pride, celebrating the work of the trust and encouraging members of the LGBT community to join our inclusive organisation.

In November 2017 thanks to the LGBT staff network the trust took part in the Stonewall and Team Pride campaign to Make Sport Everyone’s Game, highlighting the need to Come Out in support of LGBT people in sport. Over 150 pairs of rainbow laces were provided to staff during the month.

This year our LGBT network has helped to develop a Trans Policy for staff, a Trans Policy for patients and has helped in the delivery of a corporate Shared Learning Topic on LGBT Patients and the issues they may face when accessing our services. This was delivered in all departments and teams across our organisation in Early February at the Quality Improvement Half Day with time dedicated in all diaries to develop and learn together.

Our BME Staff Network organised a series of events and a launch party for Black History Month in 2017, this was the first time our trust had marked this important celebration. The network organised stalls from local and national organisations, a number of inspiring speakers to present during the day and some very tasty authentic Caribbean food. Going hand in hand with this was a message in the daily communications update celebrating influential BME people from our past and present.

Over the summer of 2017 the BME Staff Network worked hard with our local communities to establish a rapport and we attended two festivals. The first was Fiesta, this was held in Sandwell a Filipino Barrio festival. The second was Jamaica in the Square, an event held in Birmingham City Centre. It was fantastic to see our staff network representing our organisation in such a positive way.

Working in partnership with the trust the BME Staff Network have helped to establish a pilot programme within the NHS, where we have taken the bold step to ensure that every interview panel that meets to recruit a member of staff in our organisation has a BME panel member on. This is to help ensure diversity of thought, this is in its early stages at the moment but the initial data shows this has had a positive impact on our recruitment process.

The BME Network have also promoted the a pilot scheme we are running in the West Midlands in partnership with the Black Country Alliance to deliver the NHS Leadership Academy Stepping Up Programme, a leadership programme, agenda and developing there skills and abilities to grow and progress. The programme is designed to bridge the gap between where staff members are now, and where they need to be, to progress into more senior roles. We are very proud to say that sixty members of staff are taking part across three cohorts in February and March 2018.

Our disability and long term conditions staff network have established themselves in the last few months and are currently engaging with staff across our organisation about the challenges and opportunities we currently have. There are currently two projects being led by them the first is around assistance animals where they are working in partnership with the chief nurse to develop and launch a new policy within the organisation. The second they are working with our trust board on the development of patient pledges around diversity and inclusion, with a focus on patients with learning disabilities.

The amazing work of our three staff networks and the partnerships they have forged with each other and across our organisation have ensured that the culture within our organisation is one of inclusion, open to new ideas and celebrates the best of everyone in our organisation.

The trust and the staff networks have been nominated for four awards both regionally and nationally. We have won the Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group Inclusion Award 2017 and the ENEI Inclusive Practice Award 2017, alongside being recognised at our own Trust Awards as being highly commended.

The work of our staff networks has helped change the culture of our organisation in a recent survey of staff 32.3% of staff said they have seen improvements in the area of Diversity and Inclusion over the past year and now consider the Trust to have a more inclusive culture, rating their support for minority groups as 6.5/10 (11% Year On Year improvement) and their efforts to eliminate harassment/victimisation as 6/10 (a 9% Year On Year improvement). In fact, employees who consider themselves to be from minority group rated the Trust’s overall approach to D&I as 6.6/10 (a 13% YOY improvement)

Our survey also showed that there’s a positive correlation between the degree of awareness and involvement in the Trust’s Diversity and Inclusion activities, and indicators of morale. The scores were higher on average for those highly aware/involved vs low awareness/involvement as follows:

• “I am proud to tell people where I work”: 33% higher.
• “I see a future for myself at the Trust”: 41% higher.
• “I would recommend working at the Trust to others”: 41% higher.

All this shows the direct impact our staff networks are having on the day-to-day moral of staff.

As we move forward into 2018, there are plans to establish an Eastern European Staff Network and to continue the great work that has already taken place within out trust. We are very proud to be an organisation that ensures that all staff can bring their whole selves to work and feel part of the SWBH family who deliver Good and Outstanding Care to all of our patients using an inclusive approach.

All of this would not be possible without the dedication of our staff and in particular the staff networks. To each and every one of you THANK YOU for everything you do, and to those of you who do not work with us yet …. Come and join us!

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