NHS BME NETWORK FRIDAY INSIGHTS & UPDATES -11 December 2020

 

1. EHRC-Call for evidence: inquiry into racial inequality of workers in health and social care

We trust you will recall that a few weeks ago we informed you that the EHRC would be undertaking an inquiry into racial inequality of workers in health and social care, triggered by the pandemic.

The inquiry will consider how ethnic minority health and social care workers’ treatment during the pandemic has been influenced by their:

  • Race
  • Employment status
  • Immigration status
  • Working conditions

The EHRC is now calling on people to complete a confidential survey to share their experiences and they want to hear from the following groups:

  • Ethnic minority workers in lower paid roles in health and social care
  • Co-workers of ethnic minority workers
  • Health and social care employers
  • Organisations who support workers e.g. Trade Unions

The deadline for submissions is Sunday 7 February 2021. If you have any queries you can contact the EHRC at ri@equalityhumanrights.com

2. The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Coronavirus-Interim Report December 2020

The APPG on Coronavirus was set up in July 2020 to conduct a rapid inquiry into the UK government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Its purpose is to ensure that lessons are learned from the UK Government’s handling of the Coronavirus outbreak to date, and to issue recommendations to the UK Government so that its preparedness and response may be improved in the future”.

The APPG interim report contains 71 key findings, which inform 44 recommendations. The findings include what we already know about the impact of the Coronavirus on BME communities, but the report is still a worthwhile read to consider the impact of Coronavirus in the round.

3. Response to NHS England Chief People Officer’s Letter to Trust Leaders regarding disciplinary procedure

You will recall that last week we informed you that the HSJ had reported on 3 December 2020 that it had seen a letter from NHS England’s Chief People Officer to trust leaders highlighting the new disciplinary procedure put in place by Imperial College Healthcare Trust following the death of one of its BME staff, nurse Amin Abdullah. Mr. Abdullah had been suspended in September 2015 before being dismissed from his job in December 2015. Sadly, as a result of the awful experiences he was subjected to by the Trust in February 2016 he set himself on fire and died.

In her letter the NHS Chief of People calls for NHS organisations  “to commit to tangible and timely action to review on a yearly basis and by the end of this financial year, all disciplinary procedures against the recommendations and that these are formally discussed or minuted at a public board or equivalent”.

It was our response that she could start by setting a realistic stretch target for NHS organisations to address the disparity between the number of BME staff they subject to disciplinary action when compared to white staff. At present the so called “stretch target” is for there to be equality in terms of the likelihood of staff entering the disciplinary process for White and BME staff across at least 90% of all NHS Trusts by 2022. No stretch target at all.

On 9 December 2020 the HSJ published an article featuring the comments of Narinder Kapur; Christian Harkensee and Terry Skitmore in response to the NHS Chief of People’s letter to NHS leaders. It was Mr. Kapur and Mr. Skitmore who campaigned for years for an independent investigation into the suicide of nurse Amin Abdullah  including handing in at the Department of Health headquarters in Whitehall a coffin with Amin’s photo on the lid. Their comments include:

  • Firstly, that the same principles which underline the new disciplinary procedures should be be extended to the capability procedures which is also often unfairly applied.
  • Secondly, that a proper set of sanctions guidance should be set up given the current situation if often simply a choice between to dismiss or not to dismiss. The proposal is for the sanctions guidance to be set out in such a way as to spell out in detail the ranges of unsatisfactory behaviours that are matched to a range of corrective measures.
  • Thirdly, they state:

“We need to learn lessons from, and provide practical redress to, victims of what is now at last acknowledged to have been grossly unfair disciplinary procedures, often akin to “kangaroo courts”. In many cases, NHS staff have been exemplary in their work settings, have been cherished by their patients, but have been dismissed by trusts using a legal loophole called “some other substantial reason”. It is a national scandal that over an eight-year period there have been 10,000 such dismissals of NHS staff”

  • Fourth, regulatory bodies should be obliged to provide detailed guidance for their members who take on management roles especially where disciplinary and/or capability proceedings may be involved.
  • Fifth, the NHS needs to learn to listen and respond to concerns.

We endorse their comments!

4. Message from the Chair-Dr Vivienne Lyfar-Cissé

Dear Members

I hope this communication finds you both well and safe.

You will recall that when I contacted you in June this year, I mentioned that my legal cases were before the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) and that I was limited in what I could say about the cases so as not to jeopardise my position before the Court; even when one feels the desire to challenge the false reports that exist in the public domain. However, I stand by my faith that one day I will have that opportunity. It is a fact that my cases are still before the EAT and more recently I have asked for the stay on my unfair dismissal claim to be lifted and for the stay with regards to the final written warning claim to remain in place for a while longer. I await a response from the EAT to my request. I had asked for a stay of the proceedings to be able to take forward my claims of bias with regards to the way in which the two cases were progressed by the Employment Tribunal, such that one lay member sat on both cases during overlapping periods. The outcome of a preliminary hearing before the EAT in June 2020 was that my claim did in fact disclose arguable issues in relation to bias. However, at the end of October 2020 following a full appeal hearing a Judge from the Supreme Court in Scotland, sitting alone, dismissed my claims of bias.

I have now lodged an appeal against his decision in the Court of Appeal and I know you will appreciate I can say no more at this stage.

It was never going to be easy but giving up on justice is just not an option and we know we serve a God who loves justice.

Thank you for your continued prayers they really do serve to strengthen me.

Yours

Vivienne

Dr. Vivienne Lyfar-Cissé

Chair

NHS BME Network