Friday, 20 July 2007
As a follow up to my post on Tuesday about mandatory Equality and Diversity training within the NHS I was today made aware of another aspect that I think maybe worthy of a mention. Sorry if it’s pretty much the same post in different clothing.
Anyway, working as I do within purchasing (with a particular interest in contracting and capital equipping) I often have to work within the confines of various procurement directives. The European ones are a particularly glorious to behold. Most have the effect of making the job even more process heavy and complicated than it already is.
However my joy was almost unconfined when today I had sight of a Guidance document issued by an NHS body called Mosaic. Their terms of reference are to ensure that Race and Equality issues are built into the purchasing process. The document cites the Race Relations Act (2000) and highlights the fact that public authorities have a positive legal duty to promote race equality and that the Mosaic Project seeks to address equality concerns on NHS Procurement. I wasn’t aware that there were any but more of that anon.
Mosaic say that they will develop these aims by;
• Developing, through pilot sites, good practice of procurement based on CRE guidelines
• Supporting the development of Black and Ethnic Minority (BME) procurement professionals and networks to ‘mainstream’ this work across NHS Procurement
• Working with NHS prime of first tier suppliers and getting them to understand the legal responsibility to the RRA and review their own work practices in relation to BME communities
• Promote the use of small and medium sized enterprises (SME’s) and BME suppliers in particular, as a means of race equality.
The weighty guidance document has some interesting suggestions to the effect that
• Matters relating to race relations should be built into tendering documents using the same in the evaluation criteria against which offers are judged.
• Actively review ones current supplier base to ensure that THEY are complying with the legislation
• Be involved in the training of suppliers in matters of race relations.
Here’s the thing, ready for this, the vast majority of us ARE NOT racist! We aren’t as individuals and our organisations aren’t institutionally so. Really it’s true!
I see my own role as to secure the best deals possible for my employers and by extension the patients and taxpayers. I try to ensure that specifications in tenders are generic, that evaluation criteria are fairly applied and weighted and that hopefully the eventual result of any process will end up with the best offer being accepted. I certainly don’t want to have to consider the ethnic background of a company’s owner prior to letting a contract, I just want to ensure that the best offering available at that time is accepted.
Most of all I really don’t want to become an arm of the ‘Diversity Industry’. This isn’t my job - Personnel can do that! If I recruit staff I will always strive to appoint the candidate who I believe most capable. When I arrange training or appraise my staff I always try to do so to best meet their individual needs as a purchasing person, not as a member of a particular racial subset of humanity. When I conduct reviews with my suppliers I do so with a view to improving material costs and supply chain efficiencies hopefully to the benefit of both parties. I certainly don’t want to be an E&D trainer for them. If they need the training I’m sure that their Personnel people can do that!
But again, fundamentally, it comes back to the best use of resources. The money and time spent on this must have been considerable. Meanwhile jobs are being cut and hospitals are being downgraded with local businesses as well as patients suffering as a consequence. At least the effect of these changes must be acknowledged as equal and diverse. I hope that the Mosaic people will be pleased with that.