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Messenger at odds with Javid over NHS diversity jobs

Published on: 8 Jun 2022

Sajid Javid’s claim that the number of NHS roles dedicated to promoting equality and diversity should be cut is incorrect and not what the government-commissioned review into NHS management recommended, according to its author.

The review by General Sir Gordon Messenger and Leeds Teaching Hospital chair Dame Linda Pollard was published this afternoon.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday evening, the health secretary said: “In my view, there are already too many working in roles focused solely on diversity and inclusion, and at a time when our constituents are facing real pressures around cost of living, we must spend every penny on patients’ priorities.

“As this report sets out, it should be the responsibility of everyone to encourage fairness and equality of opportunity which is why we must reduce the number of these roles.”

The article was headlined “NHS to cut diversity and inclusion jobs in management shake-up”.

Speaking later to HSJ, Mr Javid was asked if there was any area of NHS management cuts should be made.

He said: “I would like to see fewer managers in terms of diversity managers and things, because I think it should actually be done by all management and all leadership, and not contracted out as some kind of tick-box exercise.”

However, when HSJ spoke to General Messenger he said: “The report does not recommend the reduction of EDI (equality, diversity and inclusion) professionals.

“What it does say though, is that if one successfully inculcates equality, diversity and inclusion to every leadership’s responsibilities then that becomes an accepted, instinctive, understood part of being a leader and a manager at every level then the requirement for dedicated EDI professionals should reduce over time.

“It doesn’t make the recommendation that that should happen before that cultural and behavioural and functional shift has happened.”

The report itself states: “We think that EDI must be embedded and mainstreamed as the responsibility of all regardless of role, and especially leaders and managers from front line to board. This must include the practice of zero tolerance of discrimination, but also greater awareness of the realities in the workplace for those with protected characteristics.

“Health and social care must work harder at EDI, recognising it is important in its own right, and key to how seriously an organisation treats the lived experience in the workforce and upholds practices that deliver equitable outcomes for all.”

The report says it is “not advocating for additional EDI professionals; indeed we would anticipate a reduction in numbers over time as leaders demonstrate that they are equipped with the right skills to address inequality and create inclusive working cultures for all.”

However, it adds that “dedicated EDI professionals” were needed to “enable the transition” to the new approach.

More money does not always mean better management

The general also told HSJ that good leadership does not have to be ‘an enormously resource intensive function’.

“All I would say is good leadership and great managerial skills among clinicians and non-clinicians is not necessarily an enormously resource intensive function, and one can get a great deal from approaching it the right way.”

According to a government statement published yesterday the review will also recommend an enhanced package of support and incentives to entice leaders into taking some of the most difficult roles. Mr Javid has this morning said this will involve increased pay offers.

General Sir Gordon said: “It’s not just about getting good people into hard jobs, you need to put in place the required support package in terms of the team around them and external support around them.”

He also said managers need to be given enough time to make a difference, rather than “unrealistic expectations of change within short time frames”.

There have been further reports this week that the review has found negative behaviours in the NHS are sometimes down to the pressure put on the health service by politicians.

General Sir Gordon said this “may be one factor”, but was not the sole factor.

He added: “The stresses the workforce is under can mean that individuals focus on the immediate and the specific things they are being measured against, rather than those longer term more important functions like building teams and looking after individuals within those teams.

“That can lead to poor leadership and poor management because of the sense they have to deliver against certain targets and expectations. Our contention is that by investing in people and investing in the development of teams you very quickly get better outcomes for patients.”