Disability and the NHS – it isn’t just about the patients

Image shows a stethoscope on top of NHS documents

When you work for the NHS you are taught that you don’t matter. Patients come first. But what makes the NHS remarkable isn’t its size or the ethos of healthcare for all (although that’s hard to beat). It’s the people who work in it. They are remarkable. And it wasn’t until I left, that I realised it was the people who work within the NHS I missed; even more than my vocation. The care provided when services are so overstretched and chronically underfunded is remarkable. And the stress people are under from doing this day after day, is remarkable.

You soon become very used to giving your all. You get used to not drinking or eating throughout the day and rarely going to the toilet. You get used to having to pay high fees to park at work. And not being able to park at work; even though you’re paying! Sadly, you get used to being shouted at, scorned and even attacked. And you become something of a superhero on an everyday basis.

You advocate for your patients, stand up for what’s right and become an expert and innovative problem solver. Your patients make it worth it. And you look after your patients to the best of your ability. So you put yourself last. And you learn that staff don’t seem to matter. Wellbeing, disability, long term conditions are things that affect patients, not staff. Despite evidence that shows staff who are happy in their work and feel well-treated themselves will feel better motivated to treat patients well.

Unfortunately, this comes at a cost. It’s no surprise that suicide rates of clinicians are far higher than the national average. It’s no surprise that staff in the NHS are far more likely to experience debilitating levels of work stress. And it’s no surprise that NHS staff are leaving in high numbers.

But there are signs of positive change…

Last week I attended the NHS Disability Summit and heard from some folk doing things a different way. I’ll admit I attended the event feeling pretty cynical; but got a few surprises. For example, University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT) is the seventh most inclusive employer in the UK in the Inclusive Top 50 UK Employers list. This is mind-blowing to me. Changing something in the NHS is incredibly hard. Yet this Trust has made inclusion a priority and risen above large corporates UK wide in doing so. They’re a disability confident employer, a Stonewall champion, and their staff networks effect change every day within the Trust. And they’re not alone. The list includes seven other NHS Trusts.

So what’s changed and how? I suspect the Head of Diversity and Inclusion, at NHS Employers, Paul Deemer, might have something to do with it “Our fourth Disability Summit represented significant steps forward in our journey towards greater equality and inclusion for disabled staff. Firstly, a significant percentage of the audience were people with disabilities. And secondly, approximately 90% of the presenters had either a visible or hidden disability. We’re learning from each other every day; our aim was a truly diverse, truly inclusive event for the disabled staff who attended and (hopefully) for those who followed the event through social media.”

Another highlight was brilliant speaker and #RollModel Dr. Hannah Barham-Brown. We asked her “What one thing would you tell NHS Trusts to do to attract talented disabled staff?” and Hannah replied, “Let us know we’re welcome”.

The gauntlet is thrown.

To find out more about disability inclusion or advertise jobs on our accessible job board email info@evenbreak.co.uk or visit www.evenbreak.co.uk

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