NHS drive for diversity in key roles is not ‘going backwards’

The Director and Policy Lead of the Workforce Race Equality Standard Implementation in NHS England reflect on the true progress being made:

Evidence clearly shows that tackling workforce race inequality improves the experience for staff, leads to better patient outcomes and is associated with organisational efficiency.

Since 2014, NHS organisations have been working tirelessly to improve on this agenda, and the national healthcare bodies are, in the main, providing the support and guidance needed to help facilitate the improvement.

The publication, earlier this month, of the NHS Confederation report entitled Chairs and non-executive directors in the NHS caused a stir but it did not give a true or fair picture of what is actually going on in the NHS today.

It cited figures going back 15 years showing fewer women and people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds being appointed to senior executive roles across NHS trusts.

The baseline data in the report covers a wide range of organisations that existed in 2010 including now defunct primary care trusts, strategic health authorities, national health and social care bodies and other government departments. The report is misleading as historical data for these organisations was then compared with figures – limited to NHS trusts only – for 2017.

When it comes to race equality, very few people or organisations anywhere in the world can claim they are getting it right.

This is one of the reasons why the NHS is taking race equality as seriously. It continues to receive, high level support and commitment – this is evidenced by the investment in the Workforce Race Equality Standard, which is beginning to show improvement on this agenda.

In 2016, there were 16 NHS trusts in England with three or more black and minority ethnic (BME) board members, in 2018 this increased to 29 trusts. Today, in 2019, we have eight NHS trust chief executives of BME origin, nearly double the numbers we had four years ago. Data also show that BME non-executives in London NHS trusts have increased from 19 in 2015, to 50 in 2019.

In the recently published Model Employer strategy, we outlined a comprehensive and holistic set of objectives and interventions to help guide the NHS to achieve this objective. This strategic approach has been built into the NHS Long Term Plan and within the recently published Interim People Plan.

We encourage all NHS staff to read the WRES data reports, published on an annual basis, and which present the latest trends over time on workforce race equality, including on leadership representation. We also encourage all staff to read the Model Employer strategy on turbo boosting BME representation across the entire workforce pipeline.

We can all agree that the NHS has work to do on this agenda, but I think we can also safely agree that we are not ‘going backwards’. In fact, the opposite is true, we are making steady, but good progress on this challenging and complex agenda.

We look forward to seeing further continuous improvements on this critical agenda over the coming period.

Yvonne Coghill

Yvonne Coghill CBE, OBE, JP, MSc, DMS, RGN, RMN, HV, CPT, Dip Exec Coaching.

Yvonne commenced nurse training at Central Middlesex Hospital in 1977, qualified as a general nurse in 1980 and then went on to qualify in mental health nursing and health visiting. In 1986 she secured her first NHS management job and has since held a number of operational and strategic leadership posts.

In 2004, she was appointed at the Department of Health as Private Secretary to the Chief Executive of the NHS, Sir Nigel Crisp.

Yvonne is currently the Director – WRES Implementation in NHS England, and deputy president of the RCN.

Dr Habib Naqvi

Dr Habib Naqvi has a background in equality and diversity policy, public health, and health psychology. Habib is the Policy Lead for the NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard and is leading on the inclusion of the WRES within national policy levers.

Before joining NHS England in 2013, Habib worked on the development of national equality and diversity policy at the Department of Health, where he led on the development of the Equality Delivery System for the NHS and took the lead for coordinating the health sector’s response to the Ministerial review of the Equality Duty.

Habib has experience in academia and research, including holding a strong portfolio of healthcare research.

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  1. Ephraim says:

    There is the need to publishe the list of BAME and other minority memebers who are in the top management of the UK institutions such as the civil service, NHS and other corporations. Then, we can address why they are being promoted to such level, this will enable us know whether there are systemic racism and institutional supression and ultimately a positive and honest conversation to balance our society and our regions.

  2. Jagtar Singh says:

    Good response – now the tough questions
    How many London trust have no BME on boards
    How different is the makeup between FT and non FT
    What differentiates the good Trust from the ones that still have a long way to go

    bad systems will beat good people everyday

  3. Diana Belfon says:

    Excellent blog. Thank you for clarifying the race equality progress made in the NHS.

    Diana Belfon
    WRES Expert

  4. J'nelle says:

    Thank you so much for publishing this blog; As an EDI Lead in my organisation I feel the complexity of this agenda, but not that it is moving backwards. And when colleagues forwarded me the guardian article highlighting the headline ‘NHS Drive for Diversity in Key Roles is going backwards,’I wondered where the data had come from? given all of our hard work and progress made to date. Thank you for shedding light on the facts, it is greatly appreciated. And that more work needs to be done.