LDC Confederation: taking an active role in combatting discrimination
Martin Skipper, Head of Policy for the LDC Confederation, discusses how the organisation is taking an active approach to addressing racism, working as part of the London Workforce Race Equality Strategy (WRES), to ensure that the dental profession benefits from the programme of work.
The aim of the London Workforce Race Equality Strategy work is to address the inequality experienced by a large proportion of the NHS workforce. The experience of professionals from black and minority ethnic backgrounds continues to lag behind that of white colleagues.
To address this imbalance, the objective is for the NHS in London to be a more inclusive place to work. The workforce strategy aims to create a step change by increasing the diversity of the workforce and promoting equality, diversity and inclusion strategies. This includes improving the leadership culture and growing and training the workforce. In a recent survey undertaken by the London WRES for Equality and Discrimination in Primary Care, around half of respondents said they had faced some sort of discrimination or harrasment at work, with 39 per cent saying that they had received this from patients. The remaining 29 per cent had been on the receiving end of discrimination or harrasment from colleagues. Of these cases only one third were reported.
Colleagues from Asian or African backgrounds were most likely to be on the receiving end of discrimination, and also less likely to know where to turn for help. Additionally, while ethnicity was the main factor reported to underlie discrimination and harrasment by a considerable margin, gender was the second most common factor. Unfortunately, responses from dental practice were very low, so few conclusions about issues specific to dentistry can be drawn.
Registration data from the General Dental Council, however, shows that many of the issues reported above can be expected to be true in dental practice. Over 50 per cent of dentists on the register are women, leaping to almost 93 per cent of dental care professionals (DCPs). At least 31 per cent of the dental workforce identify as Asian, Black, Chinese, mixed or other non-white ethnicity, with a further 17 per cent unknown. Around nine per cent of DCPs by contrast, identify as non-white, with a further 14 per cent whose ethnicity is not known.
There will be sizeable groups within both parts of the dental profession with at least one characteristic strongly associated with discrimination and harrasment. With 60 per cent of DCPs and 52 per cent of dentists being aged under 40, expectations of professionals will vary considerably from this younger cohort of professionals to their more established colleagues.
The LDC Confederation is supporting dental teams in several ways to make sure that their workplace is inviting and supportive to everyone. One these is working with the National Guardian’s Office to ensure that all practices in member LDCs have access to a clear pathway to a dental guardian. This impartial champion provides support and guidance to those in the dental team who are unsure of where to turn when they have a concern.
As many dental practices continue to be independent providers with relatively small teams, the LDC Confederation act as an impartial body able to support practices and practitioners alike. By providing this opportunity for confidential and impartial support we hope that a more open and accepting culture will be developed in dental practice.
We will continue to work with the London WRES to embed their plans for increased awareness among teams of the issues and behaviours, as well as providing a trusted environment for all members of the dental team to seek support. We will also maintain a campaign of zero tolerance towards harrasment and discrimination from patients. Individual LDCs will be working with their local training hubs to embed training opportunities at the local level and with EDI leads in the Integrated Care Systems to align practice processes and outcomes with those of system wide strategic objectives. Through these combined efforts, the LDC Confederation will continue to take an active approach to promoting equality, diversity and inclusivity in the dentistry profession.