NHS commits to long term support for race equality

A team of experts and £1 million annual investment are part of a package of measures in the NHS Long Term Plan, to improve race equality in the health service, as a new report highlights the experience of black and minority ethnic (BME) people working in the NHS.

The independent assessment published today shows that while there has been a year on year improvement in BME representation in the most senior NHS roles – including at board level – and an increase in recruitment from these backgrounds, the health service needs progress in a number of areas.

The annual Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) reviews the treatment of BME staff in England’s NHS, measured across nine key metrics, including representation, experience of discrimination and access to senior roles.

To build on progress in successive years and tackle problem areas, NHS England’s Chief Executive and Director for the WRES have committed to funding the programme for the next seven years, supported by £1 million funding each year until at least 2025.

To ensure the proposals make a practical difference for staff, NHS England has appointed a team of 42 experts from within the existing workforce, who will work with senior staff to close the gaps between BME and white staff.

Yvonne Coghill, Director of WRES Implementation at NHS England said: “Improving the experience of staff is good for them and leads to better outcomes for our patients.

“As well as making the health service fit for the future of patient care, the NHS Long Term Plan commits to doing more for our staff by shining a light on areas where they aren’t always treated fairly.

“Investing in the WRES into the middle of the next decade, will help us make the changes in the NHS that our staff and patients need and deserve.

“Our experts are already supporting organisations to improve their race equality strategies, with a second group set to join them and champion the programme across the NHS in England”

Selected experts include those working in HR and equality, project management and clinical medical teams.  All have received intensive training and will provide a supportive in-house expert role, alongside their substantive posts.

The new cohort join a network of over 80 WRES expert ambassadors, overseeing and championing the programme across the NHS in England.

Richard Worlock, equality and diversity facilitator at Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust, was nominated and completed the programme in 2018, he said: “I wanted to be part of the WRES expert programme to help my trust improve their performance and ensure BME staff are treated equally. I am very proud to have been part of it. Learning about the WRES in detail was a privilege along with meeting other new and committed experts from across the NHS. I now feel inspired at work knowing I am supporting a culture geared towards a fairer workplace for everyone.”

Originally introduced as a two-year programme in 2015, the WRES was brought in to ensure BME staff have the same career opportunities and workplace experiences as their white counterparts.

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

 Dr Habib Naqvi, WRES Policy Lead at NHS England said: “The NHS is at its best when it reflects the diversity of the country and where the leadership of organisations reflects its workforce.

“Whilst we have seen improvements in a number of areas, the latest WRES data report is a reminder of the challenges we still face, which is why we are continuing to support NHS organisations to better reflect their workforce in their own leadership.

“Our WRES experts are key to this – providing local NHS organisations with advice and support, helping to ensure better treatment for staff across the country.”