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2008 Health Care Service Group Conference
13 December 2007
Carried as Amended

In the last five years the government has worked hard to introduce an unprecedented amount of legislation on equalities seeking to bring about an end to discrimination. However, despite these measures, many organisations are still failing to achieve their minimal compliance measures such as having an equality scheme and action plan on their web site, or monitoring information on the gender and ethnicity of their employees.

Conference notes with grave concern that at present only three chief executives come from a Black or minority ethnic background and less that 60 BME staff are at a director level. We consider the representative deficit that these statistics reveal to be unacceptable, and recognise that more needs to be done to increase this profile and numbers. We welcome the work undertaken by the NHS Institute for Excellence in developing leadership roles. However, we believe that current levels of under-representation are having an impact on the quality of care that patients receive.

The Commission for Racial Equality has rightly criticised public authorities and government departments for failing to take their responsibilities seriously under the Race Relations Amendment Act, however it is with regret that they only made their announcement in the last three days of its existence.

UNISON has immense expertise in the field of equalities; however we acknowledge that we have a responsibility to ensure that our branches and regions are equipped with the knowledge and expertise to facilitate these roles at a local and regional level. For this reason, conference welcomes the introduction of an integrated equality scheme for UNISON. The scheme challenges all parts of the union to makes sure they consider the equalities impact of everything they do – how their day to day business and their high profile organising, negotiating and campaigning impacts in relation to age, disability, gender and gender identity, race, religion and belief, sexual orientation and on low paid members. The scheme asks all parts of the union to identify simple, achievable and effective equality actions and targets.

Conference congratulates the work that UNISON’s Membership Participation Unit (MPU), the self organised groups, young and retired members have done to develop information on the equality strands. In particular, the work that the LGBT group has undertaken to develop guidelines in delivering responsive and sensitive services to LGBT people, and the work being undertaken with black members to tackle racial discrimination in the health service. In addition the work undertaken by disabled members to enable the union to be compliant with DDA trade organisation duties.

Conference believes that the intent of the legislation can only be achieved through working in partnership within the NHS in order to deliver the necessary changes to ensure that staff and service users believe that their views and rights are taken seriously in order to develop equality sensitive services, which meet the needs of all users.

It’s essential that we work with all of the regions and countries to ensure we achieve sharing best practise to deliver an improved service to patients and the experiences of our members in the work place.

Conference calls on the Health Service Group Executive to undertake the following:

1)Service Group Executive to hold a national health seminar on the equalities duties;

2)To work in partnership with MPU to develop further guidelines on commissioning services which reflect the diverse needs of patients and service users;

3)To work with other trade union colleagues via the social partnership to obtain a real commitment to work in partnership at all levels to ensure that all organisations achieve compliance and move towards best practise;

4)For regions to work with the Strategic Health Authorities workforce leads to monitor their equalities commitments and where this is not achieved for the SHA to provide an action plan to achieve this;

5)To write formally to the secretary of state expressing concern at the lack of BME leaders in senior positions within the NHS including the Department of Health;

6)For branches to ensure that equalities is a standing item on local joint staff forums and regularly ask for statistical data on staff and patients;

7)Continue to encourage and highlight work being undertaken to develop single equalities schemes, in line with work on UNISON’s single equality scheme, including the development of equality impact assessments across all equality grounds.