Promoting partnership working in the NHS

Annual Partnership Conference 2015 - Partnership matters: addressing bias and promoting inclusion

“Partnership Matters: Addressing Bias and Promoting Inclusion” the annual London NHS Partnership conference took place on 23 February 2015 in Central London.

The conference brought management and Trade Unions together in order to strengthen partnership working and to look at how we can sustain and build on this good work in the year ahead.

The theme for 2015 was tackling bias and promoting inclusion and the conference addressed the issues surrounding unconscious bias and looked at ways of creating a culture of inclusivity through working in partnership.


  • Danny Mortimer – CEO NHS Employers
  • Roger Kline - Author of “snowy white peaks”
  • Wendy Irwin - Head Of Equality And Diversity At Royal College Of Nursing
  • Simon Weldon - Chief Operating Officer (London) NHS England

Agenda and speaker presentations

  • Agenda
  • Roger Kline "The NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard - Next steps: why and how?"
  • Wendy Irwin "Is that discrimination? Tackling workplace bias and discrimination in the workplace: Tools for challenge"
  • Linbert Spencer "Addressing Bias and Inclusion"
  • Jon Skewes "A National and Local Partnership Picture"
  • Simon Weldon "The Forward View Into Action"

Local examples of best practice from the breakout sessions

News and Views from the Day

31 organisations attended Conference in 2015 versus 27 for 2014.  Of the organisations that attended in 2014, 5 organisations were not represented in partnership.  Of the organisations that attended in 2015, 4 organisations were not represented in partnership.  Feedback forms received as a % of attendees in 2015 (excluding Chair, Partnership Chair, speakers and NHSE employees) 58%.  Total number of respondents – 38; 28 paper based evaluation forms completed on the day and a further 10 online following the event.  Overall event rating – 3.65.

"Good range of speeches all relevant to subject"

"Presentations by invited speakers were very good, a range of views from people looking at similar topics from different perspectives provided a well-rounded view of bias and discrimination in the NHS"

"Particularly enjoyed keynote address from Danny Mortimer and speakers Kline and L Spencer - inspiring!"

"I thought Deb O'Dea and Bernell and the RCN pitches were exceptional"

"Some more group work would be interesting and break up the talks"

"More focus on 'Positive Action'.  So intrinsically linked to bias, B&H and discrimination issues"

"I will be looking at our partnerships with the trade unions as we develop our E&D work and have forged links with other Trust to work in partnership with them"

A position paper of the research and the work progressed by the Unconcious Bias sub group is available. 


What is unconscious bias, how does it work, what interventions mitigate its effects?


Everyone, often without realising, harbours unconscious views about people with certain characteristics that may be influencing choices in recruitment, promotion and performance management.  We tend to prefer people who look like us, sound like us and share our interests. Social psychologists call this phenomenon "social categorisation‟ whereby we routinely and rapidly sort people into groups.  Brain imaging scans have demonstrated that when people are shown images of faces that differ to themselves, it activates an irrational prejudgment in the brain's alert system for danger; the amygdale. This happens in less than a tenth of a second.


There is a mechanism for asserting conscious control to prevent ourselves acting on these instinctive feelings. People can be trained to identify and then manage the feelings.  The brain has a limited capacity to control bias.  Stressors in the workplace such as fear, frustration or tiredness use up these resources, so weakening our ability to manage bias. 


People can be trained to assess their level of bias using the Harvard University Implicit Association Test ( and then learn to see the mis-match between their stated goals (e.g. to be fair, or to comply with policies) and their instinctive people preferences.