NHS publishes new workforce race equality data, ahead of NHS and race summit

Every NHS trust in London now has at least one black and minority ethnic (BME) board member, according to new data published today.

The latest assessment of race equality in the NHS – published to coincide with a major BMJ event on race and the NHS – shows a significant increase in representation of BME people at board level across the country, as the health service continues its drive to reduce gaps in experience of employees from different ethnic groups, in order to support staff and improve patients’ care.

The latest annual Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) report – published today 13th February 2020 – measures the experience and opportunities of white and BME people working in the NHS, using nine key indicators including access to promotion and exposure to discrimination.

As well as improvements in representation at the most senior levels of each organisation, the findings include a reduction in the number of BME staff going through the formal disciplinary process and a steady improvement in appointments.

In the capital, all 36 London trusts now have at least one BME board member compared to only 16 in 2014, while 14.7% of very senior managers in London are now from a BME background.

Over the past two years, the health service has also seen a boost in its medical workforce from BME backgrounds, with a 10.2% increase in BME doctors working in the NHS, an increase in nearly 4,500.

In addition, the number of very senior managers from BME backgrounds has increased by 30%.

Speaking at a BMJ event on race and the NHS this afternoon, NHS chief executive, Sir Simon Stevens, will say:  “The NHS is the largest employer of black and minority ethnic people in the country, and this latest assessment of race equality in the health service shows both how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.

“Patients get better care when their doctors, nurses and other staff feel valued and are treated fairly.

“So this open, honest and sometimes challenging work, first commissioned four years ago, holds a mirror up to the NHS and the further action we now have to take.”

Yvonne Coghill, Director, Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) at NHS England and NHS Improvement said: “This report highlights the enormous amount of work that has been done to improve the experiences of black and ethnic minority staff in the NHS and it also shows clearly we need to do more to become a fully inclusive, equitable and fair employer.”

Prerana Issar, chief people officer for the NHS said: “The NHS saves individual lives but can be a force for good across society as a whole too, so it is very encouraging to see the improvements in race equality – especially the increase in BME representation at board level – but I also recognise we have much more to do to make the NHS a fairer and more inclusive employer for everyone who works in it, as we deliver our Long Term Plan.

“Through the forthcoming NHS People Plan we are 100 per cent committed to making the NHS the best place to work, which includes building the right culture, making sure people in all roles across the NHS represent the patients and communities we serve, but also ensuring that people are treated fairly regardless of their race, age, gender or disability.”

The programme now receives an additional £1 million annual investment as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.

The data for the 2019 report show:

  • Across all NHS trusts, there were 16,112 more staff from BME backgrounds compared with 2018;
  • 8.4% of NHS trust board members were from BME backgrounds, up from 7% in 2017;
  • An improvement in the past two years in BME candidates’ likelihood to be successful in job interviews in the health service;
  • The chances of BME staff being taken through disciplinary action have reduced year on year.

Dr Habib Naqvi, deputy director of WRES, said:“The latest WRES data for NHS trusts not only show progress being made across the NHS, they also remind us of the challenges we face.

“Investment in the WRES programme, on a long-term basis, will help to produce the continuous improvements that both our staff and patients need and deserve.”

Originally introduced in 2015, the WRES was designed to ensure BME staff have the same career opportunities and workplace experiences as their white counterparts.

The annual WRES data analysis report focuses on the experience of BME staff in provider organisations in England’s NHS, measured across nine key indicators, including workforce representation, training, experience of discrimination from patients and colleagues and access to senior roles.

In December 2018, NHS England and NHS Improvement agreed a joint strategy which called on NHS organisations in 2019 – with the support of the national WRES team – to set their own targets and action plans for BME representation across their leadership team and broader workforce for the next three years.

WRES indicators tailored for the medical workforce are also set to be introduced later this month for trusts and Royal Colleges, highlighting the diversity of councils and boards of medical institutions.

The data for the medical workforce will analyse variations in career progression and pay, differential attainment at various stages of training and differences in treatment by the regulatory system.

Other indicators will represent medical staff perceptions of how they are treated by colleagues, employing organisations and patients.

The data for medics will be collated with stakeholders, analysed and published annually by NHS England and NHS Improvement.