Report by Chanelle Peters, National School of Healthcare Science Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee Chair.
As part of the National School of Healthcare Science’s (NSHCS) commitment to enhancing equality, diversity and inclusion within all of our key processes and all of our engagement with colleagues, trainees, and stakeholders, the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (E,D&I) Officer role was created and recruited to. The purpose of the role is to lead the development and the implementation of plans and policies with respect to E,D&I within the school.
The officer is responsible for:
- ensuring that school policies and plans for the promotion of E,D&I are developed coherently and executed thoroughly
- co-ordinating school initiatives and activities
- connecting the school to regional and national E,D&I initiatives – representing and articulating them within the school as well as sharing our plans, challenges and successes externally within HEE
- supporting and liaising with teams in the school to ensure E,D&I are threaded through all our core business and processes
I was successful in being appointed to the part-time Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Officer role, whilst still undertaking the roles of committee chair and Digital Services Support Officer.
To develop and identify the school’s E,D&I focus I initially met with NSHCS managers, to agree on what the priorities should be for the coming year and in the future. Below are the key points that were agreed, a review of what has been achieved so far and actions going forward.
Trainees in difficulty guidance
Following discussions with the school’s Head of Programme Support, we agreed to work collaboratively to improve the existing guidance around trainees in difficulty. The purpose of this work was to ensure that the guidance produced in relation to E,D&I for trainees in difficulty was clear for trainees, trainers and school staff, should they need to refer to it. Each person involved in the process needs to know what their responsibility is or who is expected to be introduced at each stage and the review of the guidance was to ensure that the principles of equality and inclusion were woven into all of the guidance for all involved.
This request was brought to the E,D&I committee where a working group was established by the committee. The group agreed to look into an escalation process that would be clear for everyone involved in a trainee case and to create a safe space for colleagues involved in having sensitive and difficult conversations and an escalation process to be agreed. These tasks are still a work in progress and therefore the status of this work is ongoing. In the interim, the guidance we have published on the website is sufficient to support our trainees and trainers. This guidance is relevant to E,D&I as it is intended to promote a consistent approach regardless of who is handling specific cases.
In addition to this item, the committee discussed training for school colleagues that may assist in the support we provide for the trainees. One of the recommendations was mental health first aid training.
Mental health first aid training
It was suggested via the committee that we should procure some mental health support training for colleagues that work with trainees, especially trainees in difficulty and in other exceptional circumstances. The aim was to equip colleagues with resources that can support guidance we produce and for colleagues to be able to confidently provide effective support to trainees.
The chosen provider advised that by the end of the training colleagues should have:
- an in-depth understanding of mental health and the factors that can affect wellbeing.
- skills to spot the triggers and early warning signs of mental health issues.
- confidence to respond, offer reassurance and support to someone in distress.
- enhancement of interpersonal skills, such as non-judgemental listening.
- insight and knowledge to help someone recover their health by guiding them to further support.
In total, 16 colleagues attended the training and to complete the course they were required to attend four half-day sessions. This included members of the Trainee Support, Accreditation and Admissions and Assessment teams, Training Programme Directors, the Education Training Manager and the Chair and Deputy Chair of the committee. The training took place between September and December due to availability. The following feedback comments were typical of those received:
I thought it was excellent, although the sessions were long and the content intense, I think it was managed really well and the group work / discussions were really valuable. The course materials were outstanding too. I think it should be promoted further. Updates would be good too.
It was a great course. I am glad I was invited to attend it. I found it informative and very interesting. Yes I think more training sessions like this one should be arranged.
As the majority of the feedback from those who attended was similar, we intend to introduce similar courses in the future for other school colleagues.
The National Education Training survey (NETs) and NSHCS Exit Survey
Members of the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Scientist Trainee Network requested for us to facilitate a meeting with Jo Horne, one of the school’s Training Programme Directors to discuss the NETs survey. The trainees had questions and some reservations about the information the survey requests as they wanted to be sure the types of questions asked were informative enough to provide improvements in the future. They also wanted the survey to be the space to speak up about concerns whilst remaining anonymous. This request was presented to the HEE NETs team, and we were provided with the following response:
Learners are required to confirm a post or placement location, but providing demographic details is optional and learners can submit a response without providing this information. The publication threshold for the external NETS Reporting Tool is set at N=3 to ensure lone learners in a unit or department cannot be identified. We provide this information to learners on the front page of the survey, as part of the HEE and NETS Privacy Notice.
This response was relayed to the trainees which led to no other queries. The trainees were also given the opportunity to send over some question ideas that could be submitted to NETs to help improve the survey. The deadline to submit their questions was missed but as the questions were well received it was agreed instead to include them in the school’s exit survey. The questions proposed by the trainees were free text questions, which are not an option NETS, and we would have to amend them to give answer choices for trainees to choose from if they were to be included in NETS. However, if we include the questions in the school’s exit survey then they can be answered fully, allowing us to better capture and respond to our trainee’s experiences.
The questions were reviewed with our Stakeholder Engagement Manager Katie Foster, and it was agreed to incorporate the questions into the existing survey for trainees exiting in 2022. NETS is reviewed every year, so we will have the option to revise the extra questions again for the 2023 launch.
Equality Impact Assessments
The EDI committee works closely with the Policies and Procedures Committee (PPC) including the schools Professional Standards and Improvement Manager Anthony Hoswell. During 2022 the PPC developed a new process for the development and review of policies and procedures that govern how the school works, with an Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) either created or reviewed at the beginning of the process. In 2022 the EDI committee assisted with the development of six new EIAs for the following newly developed policies:
- Reasonable Adjustments
- Mitigating Circumstances
- Academic Appeals
- External Reviewer Policy
The committee will receive EIAs from the manager in charge of the policy for any comments and feedback to be given, we are to ensure that any possibilities of any unfair disadvantages have been considered and provide suggestions they could improve the policy where necessary.
The Scientist Training Programme is subject to external regulation by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). The HCPC set standards which the school must evidence in order to maintain its status as an approved education provider.
While the principles of E,D&I are implicit throughout the standards, the following are explicitly relevant:
2.7] The education provider must ensure that there are equality and diversity policies in relation to applicants and that they are implemented and monitored.
3.14] The programme must implement and monitor equality and diversity policies in relation to learners.
We will continue to work with teams at the school, Anthony and the PPC in the future to ensure we are effectively assessing policies within the school.
2021 recruitment data analysis
A significant amount of work has been done to analyse the available data from the 2021 trainee recruitment round from the point of view of diversity and inclusion. Analysis of 2021 assessment data is also ongoing. Once completed this work will be presented on the school website as our objective is to be transparent about our recruitment and assessment processes and trends.
Engagement with the E,D&I information and pages on the school website, where the E,D&I inbox details are published, has resulted in the NSHCS E,D&I inbox regularly receiving queries from trainees, trainers, NHS colleagues and members of the public.
- Since the launch of the E,D&I pages on the website in June 2021 we have had a total of 45,122 page views. The highest number of page views are 18,415 for the conscious inclusion training.
Requests and queries received via the inbox can include:
- Requests for statistics about specialism intakes.
- Requests for guidance on processes for trainees who have exceptional circumstances and need further assistance to carry out the programme.
- Requests to help promote and improve how we can connect with potential future applicants.
The inbox is also used for school colleagues to send policies and procedures that require an EIA, in addition to requests for items to be added to the committee meeting agendas for discussion and any relevant queries relating to E,D&I. The inbox is monitored weekly on the dedicated working day.
The role of E,D&I officer requires me to attend monthly case review meetings with Admissions and Training Support teams as and when appropriate where cases involve an E,D&I matter that may require my input and knowledge. I am also required to attend monthly fair access panels with the End Point Assessment team, again as and when required. This is to ensure E,D&I specific matters are captured across the school and consistent.
The following priorities for 2023 have been developed and proposed by the school’s E,D&I committee:
- Review and update current E,D&I committee strategic objectives:
- Ensuring a system is implemented for recruitment longlisting.
- Trainee Support guidance.
- Review and refresh interview question bank/monitoring of question performance.
- Utilising CRM data/surveys for quality and monitoring purposes.
- In-house training/development for school colleagues.
- 2022/2023 assessment data analysis
- 2022/2023 recruitment data analysis
- Annual review of, and feedback on, school exit survey data and reports with an EDI lens prior to their full publication.
- Continuing to work with all departments in the school to identify specific objectives to promote E,D&I and ensure it is embedded throughout all processes.
- Establishing how NSHCS EDI can be incorporated into NHS England.