New drive to make NHS boards more representative

Author: Adrian O'Dowd

A national taskforce has been created to ensure that NHS boards are more representative of NHS staff and the communities that they serve.

Well-known GP and former chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners Dr Clare Gerada will co-chair the independent taskforce to support NHS organisations to increase non-executive diversity on their boards and governing bodies.

Dr Gerada, who is currently co-chair of the NHS Assembly – the body that is overseeing delivery of the NHS Long Term Plan – will chair the new taskforce, set up by the NHS Confederation, with Joan Saddler, director of partnerships and equality at the confederation.

The government has committed to expanding the NHS workforce with further detail expected in the imminent NHS People Plan.

In anticipation of this, the NHS Confederation said a more diverse workforce has been shown to improve productivity, problem-solving and creativity, as well as job satisfaction. It also argues that in healthcare, a diverse workforce can also improve patient outcomes.

Although the latest figures show that the number of non-executive directors from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds has increased there is still further progress to be made, said the confederation.

More is needed to be done in other areas of diversity, such as age, gender, disability and sexual orientation.

The taskforce will develop a framework to be published in December to guide NHS organisations seeking to recruit and retain its non-executive directors, including their chairs.

Dr Gerada said: “I’m delighted to be a non-executive director myself and to be chairing this important taskforce. We have to increase diversity and reflect both the NHS workforce and our patient population.

“Diverse leadership is at the heart of the NHS’s equality, diversity and inclusion agenda, and it is mission-critical to the sustainability and success of the health service.

“We’ve seen progress, through initiatives like the Workforce Race Equality Standard and Workforce Disability Equality Standard, but we need to keep moving forward, and this taskforce will be key to doing just that.”

Joan Saddler added: “National commitments to expand the workforce, retain staff and improve frontline services are welcome but NHS organisations must step up to ensure that patients, communities and workers see a diverse range of non-executive directors who are independent members of their local NHS trust boards.

“Equality, diversity and inclusion is critical to staff engagement and at a senior leadership level it can provide the right tone of governance to address very real issues facing our diverse staff teams and communities.

“If we are to create a sustainable pipeline of diverse leaders, the NHS must seek ways to accelerate this transition. The great news is that some organisations are doing this already – our new taskforce will look to learn from these, spread their work, and identify opportunities to go even further.”