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A member of the clinical team updating a status board

I’ve been really interested in hearing about the new training package we are introducing to help us understand unconscious bias, an inevitable and natural part of our behaviour. One of our key strengths is that we are such a culturally diverse organisation so it’s really important we all understand what ‘unconscious bias’ means and are able to recognise and manage it.

The way that we treat colleagues and patients is a fundamental feature of our values and behaviours. Making everyone feel special, knowing our patients and colleagues well and treating them as individuals is a core element within our 4 Ps. And yet at the same time, we all have a natural inclination – without realising it - to treat people in different ways depending on how like us they are. If someone looks and sounds like you, if you have a similar background, you are much more likely to be positive towards them. If someone is different, then the chances are that you may treat them differently without being aware of it.

In a professional environment, this can affect our decision making and the way we interact with people – colleagues and patients – and prevent us from doing our job as well as we would want to. This new training programme takes a practical approach to helping us understand what this means, and how we can recognise and overcome bias – in other words helping us take responsibility for our behaviour, with no excuses.

This isn’t simply about cultural diversity either. Equality is about ensuring everyone is treated fairly and equally, specific to their needs, including the protected characteristics of race, gender, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation and age. The work we are doing through the Equality and Diversity Steering Group, which I chair, is all about working towards an environment where everyone is valued and treated equally.

The timing of the launch is particularly pertinent in light of the Marie Curie report released this week entitled “Hiding who I am: Exposing the reality of end of life care for LGBT people”. The report shares experiences of people such as a 78-year-old woman in Belfast who cared for her partner who died with dementia and cancer, and found lack of awareness of LGBT issues compounded an already deeply distressing time. This reinforces how important it is that we are all aware of how our unconscious bias can affect our own behaviours towards others.

This new training is an important part of helping us understand diversity and now forms part of our mandatory training programme replacing the previous Equality and Diversity module. Staff can access it via our training tracker, called Mandatory Training Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (Unconscious Bias). We’ll all need to repeat this every three years as part of our regular mandatory training. I for one will be signing up as soon as I can, and would encourage you to do the same.

In the meantime, have a great weekend.

With very best wishes,

Suzanne Rankin
Chief Executive