Remind me, what’s the purpose of this?

Some weeks ago I published a post on the draft Equality Delivery System (EDS).   In brief, the EDS is a  a new framework that Trusts will use to measure how well they have embraced and embedded equality and diversity.  It was due to go out for consultation in November, but I have recently been informed that it’s postphoned until the New Year, although no reason has been given for this.  Pilot sites will start working towards their EDS in April 2011, with full-roll out in 2012.

The current framework of the EDS has been designed by individuals working either in PCTs or SHAs.  In my view the framework, as it stands in draft format, is not transferable to acute or mental health Trusts.    And this an issue, because we know that SHAs and PCTs aren’t going to exist in the very near future, so what is the point?     I understand that this is a question that is being discussed behind closed doors at some trade unions and professional bodies, who (reassuringly) share my views. For us, the consultation will be crucial, as it will be our only opportunity to significantly influence this initiative.

As I began to think through the implications of the EDS in conjuction with the White Paper, I recalled the following:  an ex-colleague of mine, who is now a leading figure in Equality & Diversity in the NHS, recently went on record saying a recent survey had established that c.34,000 GPs have a poor record in terms of their attitude towards diversity.  Unfortunately, he wasn’t around last week when I called to see where this figure came from.

It’s well documented that there is a genuine worry about the commissioning capability and capacity of the new GP consortia.  And there is quiet concern within the Equality & Diversity community about that the capability & capacity of GP consortias to run organisations who believe in equality and the concept of being “effortlessly inclusive”.  And to be clear, this isn’t just a workforce issue, but applies to patient services too.  (Ironically the White Paper is about reducing health inequalities). 

Am I taking it too far by thinking that the EDS has been designed to ensure that the GP consortia embrace and embed equality & diversity?  I think so, we’re not that visionary in the NHS.

Sometimes I feel that the NHS is like a tanker that has invested so much in trying to drive an initiative forward that it can’t change direction mid-course.    The EDS is such an iniative.   I heard a great quote recently when I was talking about the EDS with a leading Equality & Diversity specialist.  She described it as a “piece of furniture”: It sits in the corner of the room, but it looks out of place and nobody wants to use it.  That is exactly the opposite of what we should be striving for.