Approval of the Workforce Racial Equality Standard strategy

Senior leaders at NHS Improvement and NHS England have reaffirmed their commitment to race equality across the NHS’s workforce in a new strategy, that has been approved today, as a key driver for improving patient care and experience.

In our public board meeting, our chair Baroness Dido Harding stated the NHS must ‘turbo-charge’ its efforts to ensure black and minority ethnic (BME) communities are appropriately represented at senior levels of the health service. This follows earlier approval of the strategy by NHS England’s board, chaired by Lord David Prior.

As part of the strategy, the long-term goal will be for each NHS organisation to set its own target for BME representation across its leadership team and broader workforce for the next three years. The system-wide strategy has been jointly developed by the two organisations and it is the latest phase of the NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard programme (WRES).

National NHS leaders recognise there have been improvements for BME staff representation and experience across the NHS in a range of areas. These include appointments from shortlisting; reductions in the disproportionate rate that BME staff are subjected to disciplinary action and around improving the access BME staff have to non-mandatory training and courses. However, the leaders want to see a fundamental shift in the culture and leadership of the NHS, with senior teams and boards more closely representing the diversity of the local communities they serve.

Making this shift will show that the NHS is an employer that genuinely values and promotes diversity and inclusiveness and also, that it understands and acts on the healthcare needs of its local populations. The strategy will provide accelerated, intensive support to local NHS organisations on increasing the recruitment of BME staff at senior levels. It will also help growing and supporting existing BME talent from within the NHS, as well as attracting talent from outside of the NHS.

To support the strategy’s implementation, a permanent team will be established to work on its issues. The full NHS Workforce Equality Strategy will be published in January 2019.

‘Organisations across the NHS have been working hard to improve their workforce race equality. However, we must turbo-charge this now so that we can make the fundamental change that is needed in culture and leadership across the NHS.

‘The service’s staff should look at their leaders and see them represented, and our patients deserve the same.

‘We will do everything possible to support the NHS organisations build a diverse and representative workforce from top to bottom.

Baroness Dido Harding, Chair, NHS Improvement

‘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.’

Lord Prior, Chair, NHS England

‘The NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard strategy is a significant intervention for the NHS. We know that the treatment of BME staff at all levels has an impact on quality of care and experience of all patients and there is also evidence that resources might be better used. At the end of the day this is a challenge for leaders and leadership and I am pleased to note that the support the strategy has received from the leadership of NHS England and NHS Improvement, indicates that the strategy will impact positively on leadership numbers.’

Lord Adebowale CBE, Non-Executive Director, NHS England

‘Making our leadership and wider workforce representative of the rest of the population is good for our staff and good for our patients.

The important work that we have been doing on the WRES is beginning to make the necessary changes to ensure BME staff receive the same opportunities as their white colleagues in the NHS. This new strategy further builds on that work, to build an inclusive and diverse leadership, using all available talents, to foster an engaged, motivated and enthusiastic workforce delivering high quality and safe patient care.’

Yvonne Coghill CBE, Director of WRES Implementation, NHS England