John Hutton- 2004 Speech on Promoting Opportunities


Below is the text of the speech made by John Hutton, the then Minister of State for Health, on 11 October 2004.

I am very very pleased to be here this morning.

I want to start first of all by thanking all of you for the work you do in helping the NHS and social care improve the service we provide to the public. I also want to thank you too for your commitment to helping the NHS become a better employer by ensuring our staff are treated fairly and also reflect the communities we are here to serve.

As you all know, Positively Diverse began here in Bradford. Over 200 NHS Organisations across England are part of this important new network. It was designed first and foremost to help the NHS become that better employer by recognising the talents and skills of all of its staff. To help us break down barriers that had so often held people back in the past. And to help us meet our legal as well as moral obligations as the largest public sector organisation in Britain to give more people than ever before the opportunity to be part of the greatest army for good in our country and that is the NHS.

The Government is committed to supporting NHS Employers to become better employers. We have this responsibility because, I think, of the position the NHS occupies in the life of our country. Because for me and everyone else here the NHS represents a set of values. Fairness. Equality. Compassion. Respect for the individual. Decent values that reflect the powerful instinct of the our people for fairness and tolerance. If we are to properly discharge our responsibilities as the main provider of healthcare services in Britain today, we have to embed these values in the way we behave as an employer. Because we recognise that to improve the care we provide our patients we do need to improve the way we look after our staff. This means we will need to confront discrimination and prejudice within our own organisation. Because it is there. It does exist. And we have to tackle it.

I think now we are making significant progress. Over 600 NHS organisations have already been awarded the Improving Working Lives Standard.

All of these 600 organisations are committed to offering flexible, modern employment practices that recognise the need to balance responsibilities at home with our responsibilities at the workplace. Our job is to help staff balance both of these responsibilities. Not to find reasons why things can never be done differently. But to find ways to make change happen.

We all recognise that to get the best from all our staff we need working patterns that fit the way people live their lives today and they are changing. We have to support staff to better manage their work life balance. Take child care for example. There are over 230 childcare co-ordinators in post and 150 on-site nurseries that have received funding, of which 140 have been opened offering 6,000 new subsidised places. That’s a start.

Modern working practices are reaping rewards for NHS Employers. Not only are staff able to work more flexibly. We need to do more to make sure they are supported in the workplace with good training and development programmes and continual professional development. And I think have to – perceptions of us as an empolyer are changing.

The NHS, the world’s third largest employer is now the 5th in the Times top 100 graduate list, a jump of 22 places over the past 2 years. I think we’ve made that leap because the NHS is now offering better career prospects, together with improved salaries and conditions of work.

It is not my argument today however that every problem has been solved. It hasn’t. And neither is it my claim today that we can’t do more. Because we all know that we can. But it is my argument today that we are making progress in the right direction. That’s not just my view. I think that I can say it’s the view of NHS staff themselves.

The first ever national survey of NHS staff was conducted during October and November of last year. The overall results have been very encouraging. For example, the survey showed that 73% of respondents were satisfied with their jobs, enjoyed their jobs, with 91% having received training and development opportunities in the previous 12 months. This figure is much higher than a survey by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) of employees in the private sector. There were also good results in team working and a general satisfaction with the help that we are now able to provide in achieving a work-life balance.

These results highlight what many of us already know: that NHS staff are committed, caring and well trained; The survey also indicated that the NHS is getting better at reporting and recording accidents and violence and has considerably improved its compliance with statutory obligations to provide staff with a safe and healthy working environment for staff over the last six years

NHS Employers are also committed to enabling staff to work differently, making the best use of their skills.

The Skills Escalator will provide new opportunities for staff to develop new roles and responsibilities and then to be paid fairly for the work they do. A persons job title will be less important than their own individual contribution to the success of their enterpise. Treating people fairly. Breaking through some of the glass ceilings that have held people back for so long in our NHS.

As I said earlier, the fundamental value of the NHS is equity of access to its services. Everybody, irrespective of their gender, age, disability, race, colour, nationality, ethnicity, religion or sexuality should have equal access to services that are, as far as possible, sensitive and responsive to their own individual needs. The Health Service is committed to ensuring that its workforce is able to respond fully to the needs of all its patients. I know local authorities share this aspiration as well in relation to SC. For this reason, it is important that staff working across the NHS and social care reflect the diverse communities they serve.

As well as Positively Diverse we have a number of national equality & diversity projects that are helping to develop a more reflective workforce.

The Positive Action project is aiming to identify and map positive action intiatives and schemes that exist within the NHS and then share the good practice that emerges.

We have started the first ever national leadership development programme for managers form black and minoroty ethnic communities. Better career development and succession planning by the Leadership Centre I think will help us track the talent of BME staff and help them reach the most senior positions in our organisation.

The Equality & Diversity in the Medical Workforce Project aims to gain a better understanding of what the current barriers are for equalities target groups within the medical profession and to assess the effectiveness of different approaches to tackling this. Some of you might have seen a consultation document ‘Sharing the challenge, sharing the benefits’ we issued recently. The consulation period closed on the 17 September and a joint action plan will be produced to respond to the conclusions. Similar work is underway in relation to nursing.

So the pursuit of equality and diversity must always be central to the work of both the Department of Health, social care and the NHS itself. Because we are in the equality business. Nigel Crisp has issued a personal challenge to NHS leaders – both managers as well as clinicians – to give greater prominence to race equality as part of our culture to improve health. He has set up an independent panel to review progress and provide the opportunity to bring external scrutiny to our work, offering support to every part of the organisation in promoting equality across all of our activities.

A commitment to equality runs through this vision of a reformed health and social care system too. Because only by building equality into every aspect of our work can we hope to create a truly patient centred and responsive service that provides fair access to services for every section of our community.

For our part in Government, we are fully committed to working with you to improve the working lives of NHS staff and those working in social care. To confront prejudice and intolerance wherever it exists. To protecting our staff from harassment and violence. And to extending new opportunities to develop worthwhile and rewarding careers in the public sector, where what matters is what you can contribute, not where you come from or where you were born. Work with us to realise these ambitions. And in the process, help us make the NHS and social care the service we all want it to be.