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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.