September 2020

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Future changes to Equality Data in ESR

ESR enables the recording and reporting of data to help organisations demonstrate compliance with equality legislation. It also assists in comparing the experiences of staff in the Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) and Workforce Disability Equality Standard (WDES), and in determining action where necessary.

Of note: where data items and values already exist within the current data standard (the NHS National Workforce Dataset (NWD)) these are reflected in ESR. If a data item is not within the NWD then the values used in ESR will have been determined through consultation with user groups and appropriate stakeholders.

The Current Position

The NHS ESR team is aware that some organisations and individuals feel the data items and values relating to certain protected characteristics do not meet their needs. In previous ESR News articles, and in other direct communications, the NHS ESR Team has advised that changes cannot be implemented in this area until the NHS-wide review of equality data has concluded. The review is expected to lead to a new data standard setting out the data items and values that all workforce and patient systems across the NHS must deploy in the future.

The National Review

NHS England and Improvement (NHS E/I) have led a review of all protected characteristics which could result in a Unified Information Standard for Protected Characteristics (UISPC) or a number of separate standards.

NHS E/I commissioned a literature and evidence review by a UK University. The review is now complete and a draft version of the UISPC summary of findings, evidence and recommendations has been produced and shared with stakeholders for review.

The review covers data sets used across the NHS in relation to both the workforce and to patients. Assuming that the review’s recommendations are accepted by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), they will be incorporated into the NWD, enabling subsequent implementation within ESR.

Although it would be possible to implement changes to the values held in ESR independently of NHS E/I’s review, in order to satisfy user requests, there is a high risk that any such changes would be rendered obsolete following the completion of the current review, therefore there are no plans to implement changes ahead of the published review outcomes. Indeed, to implement changes in ESR when the new data standard is still being defined would result in the need for further changes and would therefore be an unnecessary burden and source of much confusion.

Next steps

The final recommendations will be submitted by NHS E/I to the DHSC for consideration and a decision on how to take forward.

Assuming a new data standard is agreed and guidance is issued, the data items and values in ESR will be amended to comply with its requirements.

Any changes to the data standard will be communicated via the NHS Digital website.  Users of ESR will be advised of changes and implementation dates via our usual communications channels, including Release Notices and User Group meetings.

The NHS ESR team remains committed to providing a system that meets all appropriate legal and nationally determined requirements and has contributed fully to the efforts to review the data standard. We look forward to publication of the new standard which will provide the go-ahead to implement any required changes to ESR.


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