NHS workforce more diverse than any point in its history, as health service commits to more action on representation

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first of its kind report looking into race equality among England’s doctors has found that the number from black and ethnic minority backgrounds working for the NHS is the highest on record.

New data published as part of the inaugural Medical Workforce Race Equality Standard (MWRES) commissioned by NHS Chief Executive, Simon Stevens shows that last year more than 53,000 doctors working in the NHS were from a black and minority ethnic (BME) background, up by more than 9,000, a rise of around one-fifth, since 2017.

The change confirms the ever-increasing diversity of NHS staff – with 42% of medical staff working in the NHS now from a BME background.

However despite this rise in ethnic minority medical staff, BME doctors currently remain underrepresented in senior positions, including at consultant grade roles and in academic positions.

While the number of BME medical directors increased to 20.3% and the proportion of clinical directors is now above one quarter, both figures would need to be at 42% to be representative, one of the reasons that the NHS Long Term Plan has called on every NHS trust to set its own target on senior BME representation by 2022, to reflect their overall workforce.

BME doctors reported lower levels of bullying or abuse from patients and the public than did white doctors, but higher levels than white doctors of abuse and discrimination from other staff.

NHS Chief Executive, Simon Stevens said:

“The NHS’s medical workforce is one of the most diverse in the country, and increasingly so. So it’s all the more critical that the profession, local employers and the wider NHS nationally all now act on these important and wide ranging findings”.

Prerana Issar, Chief People Officer for the NHS said:

“While it is pleasing that ever increasing numbers of people from a BME background are choosing to become doctors and join our NHS, there is much more the NHS and other health bodies can do to improve representation and experiences for BME people.

“As part of our People Plan we have committed to support NHS organisations to make workplaces even more inclusive and compassionate, while it is also important that our partners in medical schools, Royal Colleges and other organisations take the steps required to improve experience of staff from a BME background.”

The report also shows a need for medical schools and royal colleges to take steps in increasing diversity in the NHS.

BME students are less likely to attain a place in medical school than white students.

The report also calls for all Royal Colleges to publish a breakdown on the percentage of BME staff on their elected councils – with one Royal College having just 13% of their council from a BME background.

The report also found that BME doctors were more likely to be investigated by the General Medical Council after they were referred, or a complaint was received.

Professor Anton Emmanuel, Lead for the NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) said:

“Medicine has long been an aspirational profession for many people, and I am fortunate to have been able to become a doctor, and even more so to work in the NHS. Nevertheless it is also clear that other colleagues in the system, especially those trained above, have a different experience.

“This report will be vital in ensuring the NHS and other health bodies continue to take the steps needed to ensure all staff and patients are treated in the fair and compassionate way”.

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