North SPF conference 2024

Highlights from the North SPF conference on working together to address health inequalities and promote equality, diversity and inclusion.

2 April 2024


The North SPF conference: partnership in action, was held at Horizon, Leeds on Friday 1 March. It brought together, for the first time since 2019, the three regional social partnership forums in the North: North West, Yorkshire & Humber, and North East North Cumbria.

The focus of the conference was to continue working together to address health inequalities and promote equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in support of the regional workforce. The theme of the conference was to celebrate the work done so far and reaffirm SPF members’ commitment to further enhancing collective efforts in this area.

The conference was chaired by Charlie Carruth, regional organiser at UNISON and Mike Gibney, chief people officer at the Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust. Mike opened the day by welcoming attendees and shared the aims and purpose of the conference. This was followed by a moment of silence in honour of colleagues and loved ones lost in the COVID-19 pandemic.


Keynote speaker Roger Kline, research fellow at Middlesex University Business School presented on health inequalities by exploring the broader health inequalities context, the link to the workforce and partnership working. Roger highlighted why progress in this area has been slow and what steps can be taken to tackle health inequalities. Roger emphasised the need for employers to address the root causes of health inequalities by listening to staff and adopting procedures which make them feel safe to raise concerns in this area. Roger also shared information from the Too hot to handle? report he co-authored with Joy Warmington.

Danny Mortimer, chief executive at NHS Employers and Helga Pile, acting head of health at UNISON then discussed the role of SPFs at the national and regional level in improving health inequalities and EDI. They both reiterated the need for partnership working to continue in order to advance work in this area. Helga shared some areas of focus on the national SPF’s EDI agenda: just and learning culture, health and wellbeing, violence prevention and sexual safety.

Derek Marshall the associate director of workforce planning and information at NHS England provided an overview of the current and future regional workforce, including regional demographics. Rachel Baillie-Smith the deputy director for people at NHS Humber and North Yorkshire ICB presented a case study on health inequalities in the secondary care workforce in the North East & Yorkshire region. Rachel emphasised the impact of health inequalities on supply and attendance. Key points included the need to understand factors impacting staff attendance and to explore approaches to education and training to ensure diversity in the future NHS workforce.


The afternoon session explored opportunities for further work on health inequalities and EDI in the region and celebrated successes achieved so far. 

Claire Ingle the head of HR, operations and resourcing at Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust highlighted challenges faced by same sex couple in the workplace when becoming parents including the lack of legislation and protection. Mano Jamieson, the EDI manager at Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust showcased the Zero Tolerance to racism, ableism and LGBTQ+ frameworks to tackle discrimination in the workplace. This session highlighted the need for employers to review their policies and create a culture that allows staff to confidently raise concerns. 

Alistair Kernohan and John Hatton from Capsticks raised awareness of emerging areas of dispute in employment law relating to EDI such as transgenderism, menopause and neurodiversity. The session emphasised expanding the definition of disability under the Equality Act and the need for employers to carefully consider the necessary reasonable adjustments for their staff. 

The final session was led by Matthew James the head of OD, staff experience (North East and Yorkshire region) at NHS England, who shared his lived experience by describing the spectrum of deafness. Matthew raised awareness of the opportunities for supporting the deaf and hard of hearing workforce in the NHS. He highlighted how deaf and hard of hearing people are exposed to inequalities as they struggle to access services. Matthew shared that he is leading the National Deaf and Hard of Hearing NHS Staff Network which was launched on the 13 March.


Delegates gave a very positive evaluation of the conference with majority of them commending the speakers’ passion, knowledge and how informative and inspirational the day was. 

  • 94 per cent of delegates agreed that the conference helped them and their organisation to stay up to date with the latest thinking, requirements and developments.
  • 91 per cent of attendees agreed that participating in the conference contributed to championing the value of social partnership working to create positive working cultures in the NHS.