Top jobs in NHS more diverse than any point in history

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited the new Queen Elizabeth II hospital in Welwyn Garden City alongside Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid this week (6 April 2022). Picture by Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street

Black and minority ethnic (BME) representation in senior positions in the NHS are at their highest ever level according to an annual report into race equality across the NHS.

The NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard published today shows the number of BME staff at very senior manager level has almost doubled between 2020 to 2021 – up from 153 to 298.

The analysis also shows the number of BME board members across all NHS trusts have increased by a quarter between 2020 and 2021, and are up by three quarters on 2018 when the data was first

The survey also showed the NHS workforce is more diverse than at any point in NHS history with more than 300,000 staff from a BME background – the equivalent of 22.4% of all NHS staff. This is up from 18% in 2017.

However despite this rise, BME staff remain underrepresented in senior positions – particularly in board executive roles – which is why the Long Term Plan has called on every NHS trust to set its own target on senior BME representation by the end of 2022, to reflect their overall workforce.

The survey also shows that 29% of BME staff experienced bullying, harassment of abuse from patients last year – 3% higher than white staff.

NHS England has published the first ever national Violence Prevention and Reduction Standard which provides clear processes to encourage staff members to report all incidents so those guilty of such abuse are dealt with appropriately.

Professor Anton Emmanuel, Head of Workforce Race Equality Standard said: 

“The last two years have been the most challenging in NHS history and it is fantastic that increasing number of BME people have been inspired to join one of the most rewarding careers and that BME representation in senior positions has never been higher.

“There remains a lot of work to do change the experience of black and ethnic minority staff, but it is clear that when monitoring targets are set and evidence-based actions pursued, it is possible to shift staff experience, and the challenge now is to ensure this happens across the whole of the NHS”.

NHS England has taken several actions to improve diversity in the NHS including the rollout of staff networks, continued work with the National Guardian’s Office to ensure colleagues have the freedom to speak up to tackle harassment, bullying and abuse they may face, while NHS systems are working with NHS England regional teams to set targets to improve representation in senior roles.

Em Wilkinson-Brice, Acting Chief People Officer for NHS England said: 

“Our staff are at the heart of the NHS and throughout the pandemic they have shown how they continue to go above and beyond of what is expected of them.

“It is our responsibility to ensure that all our staff truly have an equitable experience at work regardless of race and this year’s WRES report shows the NHS has made impressive progress on this.

“But there is much more work to be done and building from the work our first NHS CPO, Prerana Issar led,  NHS England is continuing to take action to improve diversity within the health service including through trialling inclusive recruitment programmes and continuing to rollout diverse staff networks”.

Source: NHS / Public Health England

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