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30 August 2021

Statement On Historical Links With Atlantic Slave Trade

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A joint statement from NHS Lothian and NHS Lothian Charity

We are aware that hospitals across Lothian have benefited from funds realised from the Atlantic slave trade.

With colonialism and slavery being central to the national economy from the 17th to the 19th centuries, both NHS Lothian Charity and NHS Lothian can be considered as joint descendants of the legacies of these donations and endowments.

We do not believe that there is a limitation period on such contributions and have a responsibility to address this legacy of colonialism, racism and slavery and use this learning to help remove inequality and shape a positive future for all.

We have made a commitment to research, understand and acknowledge our history so that we can learn from it and act. We will:

  • create a consultative advisory group, with representation from staff, patient, and community groups, to help guide and shape the research, learning and related outputs.
  • fund a research post to review archive evidence and secondary sources to compile a thorough documented history of the links between the old Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and the Atlantic slave trade. (Funded by NHS Lothian Charity)
  • use the research to guide outcomes and outputs and make recommendations for action to the NHS Board
  • seek to work alongside other institutions (such as the University of Edinburgh) who are undertaking similar reflective exercises

The impact of the roots of the slave trade is evident in the inequalities that we see today, with COVID-19 exacerbating and giving a public spotlight to these inequalities. As an employer and healthcare provider we state without reservation that all staff and patients must be treated equally, irrespective of skin colour, culture, religion, sexuality, age, disability or gender. We support the fundamental need for equality and inclusion at the heart of what we stand for. It is important that all staff and representatives of NHS Lothian, treat one another with care, compassion, dignity, and respect. These are a key part of our organisation values.

Working to embed diversity, equity and inclusion in everything we do

We believe better health for all is within our reach and in no way condone the actions of historical donors. Acknowledging and understanding this history and using this learning to inform our corporate objectives will support us to become a more diverse and inclusive organisation and help us to tackle racism, discrimination and inequality.

Though we have much to learn and more work to do, ongoing reviews of our internal processes and systems have already led to positive, practical changes in the way we work.

The following examples outline work that is already taking place:

Staff Networks

We have established four Equalities Staff Networks, and committed to increasing support for them, and potentially further networks in the coming year. At present we have vibrant groups as follows;

  • Black & Ethnic Minority Staff Network
  • Disabled Employee Network
  • LGBT+ Staff & Allies Network
  • Youth Staff Network

Corporate Objective and Workplans

  • Our Corporate Objective 2021 – 22 on race ethnicity and diversity demonstrates our commitment to act now – starting with a facilitated series of one to one and group discussions involving our Corporate Management Team and Staff Network members
  • Our detailed Advancing Equality Action Plan 2021-22 was devised and agreed with members of all our staff networks over a series of workshops in Spring 2021

360 Visions

Managed by NHS Lothian Charity’s Tonic Arts programme, 360 Visions uses theatre, storytelling, music and filmmaking to understand NHS Lothian BME staff experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic from an equalities perspective and explores the multi-faceted challenges faced not only by BME staff, but also by Disabled, LGBT+ and Youth staff members.

The aim is to help open a door for all colleagues to gain awareness of the difficulties faced on a daily basis, both in and outside of work, and why change needs to happen. It bridges a gap to enable staff to further educate themselves about the daily struggles, in order to create a culture of inclusivity, diversity and acceptance which allows positive changes to be achieved.

NHS Lothian has come a long way to improve culture and diversity, but COVID-19 has reinforced that there is still work to be done. As part of this ongoing work, the 360 Visions creative programme will help provide a platform for diverse viewpoints to be voiced and heard, celebrating the incredible work and diversity of NHS Lothian.

Reflecting Diversity in our Art Collection

Our Art Collection plays an important role in the improved health and wellbeing of staff, patients and visitors with over 2,750 artworks displayed across over 40 NHS Lothian sites. We have undertaken a review of our collection to ensure this is reflective of a wide and diverse culture.

Review of EDI practices within our funded programmes

NHS Lothian Charity’s Tonic Arts team is working with Knowledge Bridge to help embed EDI as a core part of the Tonic Arts programme. Knowledge Bridge is working with the Tonic Arts team to review the current programme and develop an inclusive strategy, advising on how to develop a more diverse and inclusive Arts in Health programme for NHS Lothian.

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