Promoting partnership working in the NHS

North Staffs Combined Action on Inclusion - North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust, UNISON North Staffs Community Health Branch and RCN North Staffordshire Branch

The organisation

North Staffs Combined Healthcare is one of the main providers of mental health, social care and learning disability services in the West Midlands. A team of around 1,286 staff deliver services in the home, community and hospital to around 470,000 people of all ages in Stoke-on-Trent and across North Staffordshire. 

The challenge

The challenge for North Staffs was to overcome bias, both conscious and unconscious, and help people to understand the issues that minority groups can face. Staff from minority groups had reported an increase in intolerance since the Brexit referendum, with some staff experiencing discrimination and abuse in the workplace from service users and members of the public.  

The aim

The aim was to embed a culture of diversity and inclusion, by promoting awareness and accelerating positive change to improve the experience of staff, especially those in minority groups. Embedding greater understanding, compassion and care will also lead to improved service user experience for many years to come. 

The process

Trust and staff side representatives joined forces to champion diversity and challenge stigma and unfair treatment. Staff side worked collaboratively with the HR team and diversity lead to host Feel Good Friday events. At these events information to support staff wellbeing and inclusion was shared and staff side representatives delivered training, all contributing to the development of an inclusion policy and supporting improvements to recruitment processes.

Trust and staff side also worked in partnership to plan the Staffordshire symphony of hidden voices inclusion conference, which covered a wide range of topics not often openly discussed, including mental health, suicide, trans-identity, LGBT+ experience, deaf and BAME experience. This led to the creation of further focus groups and staff network groups.

The outcome

The powerful feedback from the Symphony of hidden voices conference demonstrated the profound effect on those who took part in the day, with a further conference planned on 7 September 2018. Staff have gained confidence to speak up and raise issues - most notably the BAME staff network group has encouraged BAME staff to share their experiences, including experiences of racial abuse.

Since April 2017, all inpatient teams have attended LGB and trans awareness sessions which have resulted in; more enquiries about providing support to trans and non-binary service users, the development of a guide to support trans service users to change details in their health record and an increase in the number of staff displaying rainbow stickers or wearing rainbow lanyards. All these factors combined are creating greater awareness and  understanding resulting in the delivery of more compassionate patient care.

Best practice has also been shared with other NHS organisations through the NHS Employers Diversity and Inclusion Partners Programme.

Top tips

  • Working in partnership creates a far-reaching impact.
  • Hidden voices can be powerful agents of change when given the opportunity.

Further information:

Lesley Faux, Diversity & Inclusion Lead Lesley.Faux@combined.nhs.uk