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Hutton: We will rid the
NHS of racism

16 July 2001 - Health Minister John Hutton has published new guidance aimed at helping health service managers recognise and tackle racial harassment in the National Halth Service. The NHS is a major employer of black and minority ethnic staff. The Race Relations (Amendment) Act came into force in December last year. The Act imposes a statutory duty on all NHS employers to promote race equality.

According to John Hutton:

"We can't get the best from NHS staff if those who are from minority ethnic groups are subject to racist abuse and harassment. Racism has absolutely no place in the NHS. Our job now is to provide better support to frontline NHS staff who are facing racial harassment and to deal more effectively with those who are abusing them.

"This is why we are moving on to a new phase of the programme. This new guidance stresses that leaders in the NHS are accountable for building a service which is free from harassment and discrimination of any kind.

"We recognise that this will not happen overnight. Many of our staff will need new knowledge and skills if we are going to rise to this challenge. But with the commitment of service managers and everyone in the NHS we are determined to make that change happen."

The guidance has been issued to the NHS together with training packs for managers. It forms part of the Government's overall strategy for tackling harassment and discrimination and building up a more diverse workforce. All NHS employers are expected to adhere to these standards in tackling racial harassment but local actions can be tailored to meet local circumstances.

The Improving Working Lives Standard commits all NHS Employers to improve all aspects of the working lives of all staff groups in the NHS. All employers will be assessed against the performance targets and the Improving Working Lives standard, and by April 2003 staff will be able to see which employers are meeting the standard. The guidance will also help employers to meet their obligations under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act.

The guidance includes:

- A national standard ensuring all NHS employers have effective policies in place to tackle racial harassment and that these are properly supported and implemented,

- The key elements of a harassment policy for NHS organisations,

- Advice on monitoring progress how this fits in with performance management,

- Guidance on leadership, effective training, and supporting black and minority ethnic staff networks.

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