Significant increase in BME representation at senior levels of the NHS in England

Author: Ingrid Torjesen

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Feb 17, 2020
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There has been a significant increase in representation of black and minority ethnic (BME) people at board level in NHS trusts across the country and among very senior NHS managers, data from the latest annual Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) report shows.

Over the past two years, the number of very senior managers from BME backgrounds in the NHS in England has increased by 30%, and 8.4% of NHS trust board members are now from BME backgrounds - up from 7% in 2017.

Across all NHS trusts BME candidates’ likelihood to be successful in job interviews has increased and there were 16,112 more staff from BME backgrounds working in the NHS compared with 2018, says the report, which measures the experience and opportunities of white and BME people working in the NHS, using nine key indicators including workforce representation, training, experience of discrimination from patients and colleagues and access to senior roles. In terms of medical workforce, there has been a 10.2% increase in the number BME doctors over the last two years - an increase in nearly 4,500 doctors.

BME representation is especially high in the capital. Every one of the 36 NHS trusts in London now has at least one BME board member, compared to only 16 in 2014, and 14.7% of very senior managers in London are now from a BME background.

As well as improvements in representation at the most senior levels of each organisation, the report shows that there has been a reduction in the number of BME staff going through the formal disciplinary process.

Speaking at a BMJ event on race and the NHS last week, NHS chief executive, Sir Simon Stevens, said:  “The NHS is the largest employer of black and minority ethnic people in the country, and this latest assessment of race equality in the health service shows both how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.

“Patients get better care when their doctors, nurses and other staff feel valued and are treated fairly. So this open, honest and sometimes challenging work, first commissioned four years ago, holds a mirror up to the NHS and the further action we now have to take.”

Yvonne Coghill, director of WRES at NHS England and NHS Improvement said: “This report highlights the enormous amount of work that has been done to improve the experiences of black and ethnic minority staff in the NHS and it also shows clearly we need to do more to become a fully inclusive, equitable and fair employer.”

In December 2018, NHS England and NHS Improvement agreed a joint strategy which called on NHS organisations in 2019 to set their own targets and action plans for BME representation across their leadership team and broader workforce for the next three years.

WRES indicators tailored for the medical workforce are also set to be introduced later this month for trusts and royal colleges, highlighting the diversity of councils and boards of medical institutions. The data for the medical workforce will be published annually and will analyse variations in career progression and pay, differential attainment at various stages of training, differences in treatment by the regulatory system, and medical staff perceptions of how they are treated by colleagues, employing organisations and patients.

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