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.

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.

Feedback from the WDES metrics engagement events and survey

In March 2018, NHS England held six one day regional engagement events to discuss the draft WDES metrics and gather feedback. 225 delegates attended, primarily from NHS trusts and foundations trusts, along with arms-length bodies (ALBs) and CCGs. After the events, all delegates and relevant trusts were sent an online survey and 121 responses were received from a range of NHS staff including equality leads, disabled staff network members, union representatives, disabled staff, HR and senior managers.

The feedback on the proposed metrics has been collated and discussed with the WDES Steering group and relevant adjustments have been made. Comments relating to the NHS staff survey have been shared with the NHS England Insight team who lead on the staff survey.

Key findings from both the events and online survey are summarised below:

  • The WDES and the metrics were supported in principle.
  • Delegates said that the metrics alone will not be able to make change happen without cultural change, as both are essential to improving the experiences of disabled staff in the NHS.
  • The WDES relies on accurate and complete data. There are low numbers of staff recorded as ‘disabled’ on the NHS Electronic Records System ESR (nationally 3.1 per cent). This is coupled with a relatively high percentage of disabled staff who do not declare their disability on ESR (nationally 13.4 per cent), plus a relatively high percentage of missing data (13.4%). An improvement in the data collection process will be needed in the early stages of implementation.
  • Delegates felt that there were challenges in collecting data for some of the metrics that could not be drawn either from ESR or the NHS staff survey.

The final WDES metrics are planned to be published in Autumn 2018 and the indicative timetable is set out below.

 Date Action
 Autumn 2018 Publication of the WDES along with guidance and resources to assist with the report process.
 Autumn/Winter 2018 NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts review their data and reporting arrangements against the metrics.
 May 2019 Online WDES reporting form published by NHS England.
 June 2019 Prepopulated data spreadsheet 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.