NHS strategy targets diversity at senior manager level

Action plan says organisations should set targets for BME representation in leadership roles

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An action plan aimed at improving diversity at the highest levels of the health service has been approved by national NHS leaders.

The system-wide strategy, which will be published in full in January, was jointly developed by NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSI). It forms part of the latest phase of the NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard programme (WRES).

Underrepresented above band 6

What the plan says

The action plan aims to bring about a fundamental shift in the culture and leadership of the NHS, with senior teams and boards more closely representing the diversity of the communities they serve. It includes:

  • Goals for each NHS organisation to set its own target for BME representation across its leadership team and wider workforce for the next three years  
  • Accelerated, intensive support to local NHS organisations on increasing recruitment of BME staff at senior levels
  • Growing and supporting existing BME talent within from the NHS, as well as attracting talent from outside

The 2017 WRES report showed that, although one in every five nurses and midwives is black or minority ethnic (BME), they remain significantly underrepresented at senior manager level and from band 6 upwards. 

NHS England director of WRES implementation Yvonne Coghill said: 'Making our leadership and wider workforce representative of the rest of the population is good for our staff and good for our patients.'

WRES making an impact

Ms Coghill, who is also newly elected RCN deputy president, said the WRES work was beginning to make the necessary changes to ensure BME staff receive the same opportunities as white colleagues in the NHS.

The new strategy was approved at a meeting of senior NHS leaders on 12 December.

NHS England chair Lord Prior said: ‘The moral, clinical and economic case for treating people from all ethnic backgrounds in the NHS fairly is so obvious that it ought not to have to be stated. 

‘Sadly, it does. And not just stated. We need to do it. Now.’

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