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NHS workforce race equality

23 January 2020
Volume 29 · Issue 2

In 2014 the NHS Equality and Diversity Council announced that it had agreed action to ensure employees from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds have equal access to career opportunities and receive fair treatment in the workplace. The NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) is an obligatory system introduced in 2015. NHS commissioners and NHS healthcare providers, including independent organisations, through the NHS standard contract, are required to implement the standard. The relative experiences of BME staff, compared with the rest of each providers’ workforce, are reported using nine specific metrics. The results are then published and comparisons are made between trusts.

Kline (2014) highlighted the abysmally low representation from BME groups at senior levels of the NHS in London, particularly on trust boards. According to the most recent analysis, since 2002 the gender gap for chairs and non-executive roles has widened, ensuring the domination of male non-executives on NHS boards (NHS Confederation, 2019). The percentage of BME people in these roles by 2017 was smaller than that reported in 2002 (NHS Confederation, 2019). Our NHS is an organisation dominated by female employees and also an organisation where BME staff play key roles. This anomaly contrasts with other public sector and commercial organisations that have a smaller proportion of women and BME employees but actively support and advocate for women as well as those from BME backgrounds in applying for board and leadership roles. Only 8% of NHS chief executives and chairs are black, Asian or of other minority ethnicities (NHS Confederation, 2019).

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