Annual report 2020

Equality, diversity and inclusion

A mixed group of people sat around a table with laptops, wearing facemasks.

Equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) are integral to us being a fair and effective regulator and employer.

Work we have commissioned in recent years has guided us to workstreams of change. For example:

Over 2020, we have developed clear commitments to accelerate progress and deliver meaningful outcomes for the people we work with and for, in line with our ED&I strategy. Integral to this will be our work with the UK’s healthcare systems in creating inclusive workplaces, where everyone feels valued and respected, and has equal access to opportunity.

Tackling inequalities and creating more inclusive environments

The events of 2020 and the overwhelming impact of the pandemic have reminded us of the persistence of inequalities, in relation to education, health, age, disability, race and other protected characteristics.

As the regulator of medical professionals in the UK, we will play our part in are committed to, tackling inequality, both within the UK’s healthcare systems and within our own workplace.

In June 2020, Dame Clare Marx, our Chair of Council, wrote to the profession addressing healthcare and race inequalities and other forms of discrimination, and outlining our commitment to positive change.

Among other things, it’s our priority to address two measurable issues and eliminate:

  • discrimination, disadvantage and unfairness in undergraduate and postgraduate medical education and training
  • disproportionate fitness to practise referrals from employers, in relation to ethnicity and primary medical qualification.

To do this, we recognise we will need to promote the use of our insights and data to key participants in the health systems.

Our key performance indicators will help us to drive the changes we want to see across both our employment and our regulatory activities. These will be delivered as part of our new strategy from 2021. Read more about the measures we’re putting in place and how they will be governed on our website.

Embedding equality and diversity in all our work

During 2020, we continued to work closely with our external stakeholders, responding both sensitively and effectively to the issues they raised with us. For example:

  • working with our BME Doctors Forum members to provide specific support to doctors stranded in the UK as a result of PLAB cancellations
  • creating a dedicated online ethical hub with guidance on some of the equality issues raised
  • contributing to the development of the 2020 Medical Workforce Race Equality Standard, an important initiative led by NHS England to measure and drive fairness in medicine
  • supporting efforts to promote diversity in medical teaching and learning, working with the MSC on guidance to help students learn how to treat patients from different backgrounds
  • submitting a response to the Women and Equalities Committee inquiry on impacts of the pandemic on people with protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010, and our actions to support diverse groups during the pandemic
  • rolling out a new mandatory e-learning programme on Treating People Fairly, designed to help colleagues understand their responsibilities and how they should act and behave to ensure everyone is treated fairly
  • continuing work with our Strategic Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Forum on guidance and support towards our strategic aims, in particular on the bullying, harassment and discrimination of diverse groups of doctors
  • introducing an Inclusivity index in our annual staff survey, which will be refined over time as a baseline measurement of organisational inclusivity.

Reflecting on how we can continue to improve equality, diversity and inclusion

External auditors Campbell Tickell conducted an independent review of the overall effectiveness of our ED&I practices and protocols in 2020. The review covered our role as a regulator, our infrastructure, our accountability and our ownership of ED&I, as well as our compliance with legislation and standards across the UK.

It confirmed that we are compliant with legislative and regulatory requirements. It particularly acknowledged the effort and commitment we have invested in focusing on improvements over the past few years.

The auditors made several recommendations to strengthen our approach in relation to the governance and compliance of our ED&I work, which we will be taking forward in 2021.