7 steps to a diverse occupational therapy practice
Diverse OT: When R.E.S.P.E.C.T. isn’t the only way to spell out a solution to race inequality in occupational therapy.
Enabling the right of patients and clients to work with an occupational therapist (OT) of their choice requires, among other things, ethnic diversity within the profession.
And to encourage ethnic diversity, there needs to be a fair-for-all workplace.
But if the UK’s single biggest employer, the National Health Service (NHS) is struggling to balance its race equality scales , what other measure can give a true reading for occupational therapy providers?
In our series supporting the Royal College of Occupational Therapy’s diversity mission , we look at a new guide in which R.E.S.P.E.C.T. isn’t the only way to spell a solution…
I thought, this is fantastic! People will recognise that everyone, regardless of their background, must be treated well and with dignity and respect. It’s a must-have!
Yvonne Coghill CBE, NHS Race Adviser
In the spirit of race equality enlightenment in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in the US, a new guide in the UK is illuminating the path ahead.
Written by NHS Race Adviser, Yvonne Coghill CBE, it is a plan of action for an inclusive working environment that every health care provider can follow.
Or, in Yvonne’s words at the recent Royal College of Occupational Therapists’ (RCOT) annual conference , “A look at what you need to do to become an authentic ally.”
Authentic allies are people who pro-actively support others.
And they take a stand against oppressive or discriminatory behaviour.
Yvonne - made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 2018 for her commitment to NHS equality and diversity  - suggests seven steps to becoming an authentic ally.
She reminded conference delegates, “The NHS Constitution  is to provide a high-quality service.
Since the inception of the NHS, we have had people from all over the globe come to help us, to support us and to make sure that we can deliver high-quality care to our populations.
And yet, she added, just 13 per cent of all allied health professionals (AHPs) are from Black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) groups.
And only 9% of Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff are occupational therapists.
Yvonne, a Fellow of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), pointed to evidence from the health care think tank, the King’s Fund showing links between staff commitment and provider performance. 
She said there was “a spiral of positivity in the best performing NHS trusts.”
Citing the King’s Fund findings, she said, “The extent to which staff are committed to their organisations, and to which they recommend their trust […], is strongly related to patient outcomes and patient satisfaction.
“Climates of trust and respect characterise these top-performing trusts.”
The views of BAME staff, therefore, were “a very good barometer” of the race equality climate.
Having read the research, Yvonne recalled, “I thought, this is fantastic.
People will recognise that everyone, regardless of their background, must be treated well and with dignity and respect. It’s a must have!
“In order to do this in an increasingly diverse population, we need to make sure that our workforce is diverse and that they feel fully included.”
Yvonne considered four workplace areas where race equality should be addressed: legal; moral; quality care; and financial.
“It’s about how we all of us work to make sure that everybody, regardless of their background, feels included,” she said.
“It’s about all of us recognising that there are things for us to do and ways to behave in order to support and help our colleagues in the workplace.”
The plan Yvonne drew up is called ‘The 7 ‘A’s of Authentic Allies’  and is largely based on her contribution last year to London’s Workforce Race Equality Strategy. 
The seven ‘A’s to achieve equality targets are:
- Appetite – stay hungry for change and race equality.
- Ask – arm yourself with the facts.
- Accept – denial doesn’t make it disappear.
- Acknowledgement – a nod in the equal rights direction.
- Apologise – in sympathy over the effects of racism.
- Assume – don’t assume! Facts first!
- Action – do what’s needed.
Yvonne concluded: “Race equality is not an easy thing, but I’m hoping using the 7 As will help people get from where they are to a place that they can start to help to support each other.”
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Coghill, Y. CBE, “7 A’s of Authentic Allyship,” in RCOT Annual Conference 2021 – highlights from day one - RCOT