Equality Diversity Inclusion


Let’s talk about supporting colleagues

During the last few months, like many people, we at Enact Solutions have been following the news intently and were devastated to learn that not only are healthcare workers more at risk from Covid-19 because of their exposure levels, but that disproportionate numbers of BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people) healthcare workers have died from Covid-19.

Health Service Journal logo

In April 2020, a study was published in the Health Service Journal which looked at 119 NHS staff members who had died from Covid-19.

The study found that 63% of those 119 staff were of BAME background. This is despite BAME staff members making up only 21% of NHS employees.

When we were approached by an NHS Trust, asking how best to support BAME colleagues through the Covid-19 pandemic, we set to work.

Based on research and real-life interviews with NHS employees, looking at the complexity of organising staff rotas, with regards to people’s specialities, additional Covid-19 precautions, risk levels of staff etc, we created the following scenario: 

A BAME nurse has a conversation with her supervisor. She expresses her concerns about the inequality the above study has highlighted, the increased risk to her and her family’s health and the mix of emotions she is feeling around the whole pandemic. This is juxtaposed with her love for her job, and her patients.

Delegates get to watch a difficult conversation, which has extremely high stakes and strong emotions involved. The nurse and her supervisor don’t have opposing views, but they do have slightly different priorities. Whilst staff safety is a priority for both, the staff nurse supervisor also has to fulfil her role of creating and implementing rotas. This is a logistical nightmare at the best of times, let alone during a pandemic. It’s an unprecedented situation, which requires incredibly careful conversation.

Through the scene, delegates learn that people often go into ‘solution mode’, ie trying to fix a problem quickly, when having difficult conversations. Whilst this is an understandable response – especially in the healthcare sector (as it’s in people’s nature to care and make things better), this response can inadvertently make some situations worse.

We find that delegates are often desperate to know what the right thing to say or do is, (again, not a bad thing), but what happens when there isn’t an easy solution? Often it’s about learning how to communicate so that people are listened to, understood, supported and valued. It’s about building strong foundations, so that dialogue can remain open in the future, so trust can be built, more conversations can happen, collaboration can begin and people can work together better. 

Human beings are social creatures at the end of the day and it’s imperative that we be able to communicate well, especially in times of change and conflict. Good communication makes for happier, healthier individuals and increased productivity at work.

We’ve had a significantly increased demand for our ‘Productive Conversations in Challenging Times’ workshop at Enact Solutions of late and no wonder… Organisations recognise these are unprecedented times and want their staff to be able to communicate potentially difficult conversations as productively as possible. 

I’ll finish with a thought, which though cliche is apt: “A problem shared is a problem halved”.

In this we realise that in order to share a problem, we must first be able to communicate it.

Happy conversing,

Jemma Houghton


This is the third and final in a series of blog posts about Productive Conversations written by Jemma Houghton, one of our Associates at Enact Solutions. She works in a range of areas including research, writing, filming and workshop consultancy. You can read Jemma’s first blog on this topic,  Let’s talk about work and the new normal, and her second blog Let’s talk about learning through practice on our site. If you’re interested you can find out more about Enact Solutions’ Products and have a look at Enact Solutions’ Events on our website. 


Reducing harassment, bullying and incivility in the NHS

It’s been a while since I last wrote a blog post. This article from Sunday’s Guardian has prompted me to put that right.

The NHS holds a special place for many of us. My family and I have had many occasions to be grateful for the care and support we’ve received at all sorts of times of the day and night. I don’t ever take for granted what we have here in the UK.

I’m also under no illusions, just because a service is filled with ‘caring’ professionals doesn’t necessarily lead to workplaces filled with peace, love and understanding. As the Guardian’s article makes all too clear.

The thing is, and the reason I felt moved to write today, in my experience many NHS Trusts are aware they face problems and recognise they have work to do to create productive, healthy, and mutually supportive workplaces. In many instances, they are taking practical steps to close the reality gap between the core values they espouse and the day-to-day experiences of some employees on the ground.

For example, we recently worked with a proactive NHS Trust that wanted us to use our drama-based, experiential approach to work with groups of employees to:

  • Establish a shared understanding of the kind of workplace they (and pretty much everyone in fact) want to work in;
  • Expose the extent of inappropriate and negative behaviours, including acknowledging their own individual shortcomings;
  • Recognise the impact such behaviours have on individuals, working relationships, and ultimately patient care;
  • Achieve clarity on what constitutes bullying behaviour;
  • Signpost where they can go for help and support;
  • Identify what each person can do to establish a more supportive and inclusive environment.

Over the course of 16 3-hour sessions of dramatised content, interactive electronic voting, and honest conversations we worked with over 350 operational employees from one hospital. The sessions were widely well received and valued.

Headline results from the sessions and a follow-up survey 6-8 weeks later included:

  • 98% of delegates on the day said the session helped them understand more what constitutes inappropriate attitudes and behaviours in the workplace;
  • 99% committed to helping create a more supportive and inclusive working environment;
  • 98% found the session worthwhile;
  • 35% of delegates went on in the weeks after the training to have a ‘difficult’ or ‘honest’ conversation in response to a situation or behaviour they thought was undesirable;
  • 83% had done all or some of what they planned during the training; and
  • 98% still felt the training had been worthwhile.

This is just one example of the proactive steps taking place in the NHS and the work we have been doing to help. On its own it won’t fix all the harassment, bullying and incivility that exists but, allied with other initiatives and changes, I believe it can help make a positive difference. As this delegate put it:

“I feel that changes are beginning.  There is still a long way to go.  I think that this course or its content should be part of the annual refresher so that these behaviours come to be automatic.”

As the saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. If you want to create a more supportive workplace and would like to know more about our work with NHS clients, feel free to contact me.