Workforce Disability Equality Standard

NHS England strengthens its diversity push with plans for the Workforce Disability Equality Standard (WDES)

What is the Workforce Disability Equality Standard?

The Workforce Disability Equality Standard (WDES) is a set of specific measures (metrics) that will enable NHS organisations to compare the experiences of disabled and non-disabled staff. This information will then be used by the relevant organisations to develop a local action plan, and enable them to demonstrate progress against the indicators of disability equality.

Workforce Disability Equality Standard Metrics Online Survey

NHS England are seeking views about the proposed Workforce Disability Equality Standard (WDES) metrics (due to be launched in Autumn 2018) and the wording of the disability questions in the NHS staff survey.

The NHS Employers’ survey is live and open until 23:59 on Wednesday 18th April 2018. To find out more information and share your views.

WDES Regional Engagement Events

NHS England recently held a series of regional engagement events in March 2018 for the WDES. Participants were consulted on the proposals for the WDES Metrics and the indicative timetable for the publication of the WDES.

Changes to the NHS Standard Contract

The NHS Standard Contract for 2017-19 (January 2018 edition) set out that NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts will have to implement the WDES in the first year. The indicative timetable and the reporting deadline of August 2019 are outlined in the table below. This brings the reporting timetable in line with the Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES). There will be further consultation in 2018 about extending the scope of the WDES, beyond NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts, to include other providers of NHS funded services operating under the NHS Standard Contract.

NHS England is now working on an ambitious timetable for the implementation of WDES, which includes a series of consultation activities and events. Following these, we will finalise the metrics and publish a suite of products to support delivery.

Making a difference for disabled staff

The WDES is important, because research shows that a motivated, included and valued workforce helps to deliver high quality patient care, increased patient satisfaction and improved patient safety.

The implementation of the WDES will enable NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts to better understand the experiences of their disabled staff. It will support positive change for existing employees, and enable a more inclusive environment for disabled people working in the NHS. Like the Workforce Race Equality Standard on which the WDES is in part modelled, it will also allow us to identify good practice and compare performance regionally and by type of trust.

Recent and next steps

Between mid-October and mid-November 2017, draft WDES Metrics were piloted by 16 NHS Trusts and a small number of Arms Length Bodies (ALBs); we have also engaged with Disabled Staff Networks within NHS Trusts and similar networks within NHS Trade Unions. The draft metrics will be published on the NHS England webpages in due course. The results from this engagement work will inform any potential changes to the draft WDES metrics, and there will be further consultation before they are finalised. An online survey will be launched by our partner, NHS Employers, and there will also be a set of regional consultation events.

We are also producing, in conjunction with partners in the Health and Wellbeing Alliance (HWA), information about Disabled Staff Networks and we are developing more information about existing resources, including best practice case studies.

NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts will not need to undertake any preparatory work before March 2018. Discussions about the WDES, its implementation and the collection of the data will take place during the consultation period.

Key indicative milestones are included in the table below.

 Date Action
March 2018 Online Survey.
March 2018 Regional Consultation Events.
Autumn 2018 Publication of the WDES.
Autumn/Winter 2018 NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts review their data and reporting against the metrics.
June 2019 Reporting sheet with prepopulated data sent to NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts.
August 2019 First WDES reports to be published in August 2019, based on data from the 2018/19 financial year.
April/May 2020 First National WDES annual report published by NHS England.

If you would like to ask any questions about the WDES or if you would like to comment, please contact the WDES mailbox:

You can also join the mailing list by emailing us:

This information can be made available in alternative formats, such as easy read or large print, and may be available in alternative languages, upon request.