Sarah Jay

Equality, Diversity and Human Rights Lead for Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust

I am the equality, diversity and human rights lead in Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV), providers of a range of mental health, learning disabilities and eating disorders services across County Durham, Teesside, North Yorkshire and York and Selby. The Trust was part of the BIHR project ‘Delivering Compassionate Care: Connecting Human Rights to the Frontline’ which meant that the BIHR worked intensively with our four early interventions in psychosis teams in Teesside.

The teams found that adopting a human rights based approach supported them to make difficult decisions by balancing risks to service users against the service users’ rights. BIHR’s programme really helped our teams to feel more confident about balancing risks and rights. It took the heat out of difficult decisions by providing an objective process for making difficult decisions that clinicians are often faced with, and which no one wants to get wrong.

Using human rights

As the equality, diversity and human rights lead I feel that the project has developed my knowledge of human rights and my confidence in advising clinicians and other staff on how to apply it in a variety of situations. I was also able to brief our recovery team on human rights, as I felt that it gave them the legal basis for many recovery processes they are seeking to develop including shared decision making. Both the recovery team and our harm minimisation project had training from BIHR. As a result human rights is very much built into the harm minimisation approach the Trust is taking and will be built into the recovery training the Trust is planning to deliver

The Trust board have had a briefing from BIHR on human rights, with particular reference to mental health and learning disabilities. At that seminar we identified that human rights has a great affinity with the recovery approach that the Trust has committed to. As a result BIHR are going to work with us to embed human rights into the recovery training we are planning to roll out throughout the Trust.

“We have now incorporated a human rights based approach into our recovery agenda and that is a huge thing.”

The challenges

In a Trust our size we regularly have staff changing roles or new staff joining and it can be challenging to make sure that all new starters are briefed on the approach. However this also has its benefits as when people move roles they have taken a human rights approach to their new teams and have shared their knowledge. Another challenge is that teams sometimes struggle when trying to explain a human rights approach to other agencies who have not had the benefit of the BIHR training, so in my opinion the wider the training and the more shared knowledge the easier this will be. 

Embedding the approach

Working with the BIHR definitely helped me to begin to embed a human rights approach in the Trust. The programme provided was excellent and their approach of delivering training, using case studies and discussion over a series of months meant that clinicians became really confident and articulate in the use of human rights. The trainers at BIHR are extremely knowledgeable and yet very approachable and supportive and I have a great relationship with them which I hope will continue.

My take on human rights

I think that human rights are essentially about what it is to be human, how we would all like to be treated, how we should be treated. I think that a human rights approach provides a really useful and accessible tool for public bodies to make the kind of difficult decisions that they are faced with on a daily basis, helping to give an objective structure within which to balance rights and risk and ensuring that we if we decide that we need to limit or restrict someone’s rights we do it in the least restrictive way.