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All NHS board members to get equality objectives

Published on: 8 Jun 2023

Trusts and systems must draw up plans to improve the diversity of their executive and senior leadership teams over the next 12 months, and evidence progress against them by summer 2025, NHS England has announced.

A new equality, diversity and inclusion improvement plan, published today, also says every board and executive team member will have EDI objectives they will be assessed against during annual appraisals by spring 2024.

The targets form part of six “high impact actions,” each with set targets that aim to address the “widely known intersectional impacts of discrimination and bias” within the NHS.

Organisations have also been told to:

  • Set reduction targets for bullying, harassment, discrimination and violence by protected characteristics by March 2024, with plans to improve staff experience year on year;
  • Implement recommendations from the Mend the Gap review on EDI among doctors, and apply them to senior non-medical workforce, by March 2024; and
  • Analyse pay gaps by protected characteristics and put in place improvement plans, with sex and race by 2024, disability by 2025 and other protected characteristics by 2026.

The plan says it seeks to address “prejudice and discrimination, direct and indirect, that exists through behaviour, policies, practices and cultures against certain groups and individuals across the NHS workforce”.

It added: “The [forthcoming] NHS long-term workforce plan defines the size, shape, mix and number of staff needed to deliver high-quality patient care, now and into the future.

“This EDI improvement plan supports the long-term workforce plan by improving the culture of our workplaces and the experiences of our workforce, to boost staff retention and attract diverse new talent to the NHS.”

NHSE is also developing a national EDI “repository” to share examples of what appears to be working both in the NHS and the private sector. It is expected to include case studies, toolkits and new research.

The plan also says a national dashboard is being developed at region, integrated care board and trust levels which will enable them to “monitor progress, identify challenges and assist peer-to-peer learning alongside the EDI repository”.

The plan comes as the latest workforce race equality standard report — which NHSE publishes annually to monitor the issue — indicated progress on some indicators of discrimination and bias, while others have stagnated over recent years.

Last year’s workforce disability equality standard report revealed disabled NHS staff were nearly twice as likely to enter capability processes compared to others. This year’s report has yet to be published.

The service has been set a number of objectives and targets in recent years to tackle discrimination, but this represents NHSE’s first national action plan.

It arrives as NHSE reduces up to 40 per cent of its roles, as part of its wider restructure with Health Education England and NHS Digital, including its EDI team being cut to 35 whole-time posts, as HSJ revealed in February.

NHSE chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: “The diversity of the NHS workforce is one of its greatest strengths, and the evidence shows that ensuring our staff work in an environment where they feel they belong, and can safely raise concerns, ask questions, and admit mistakes, is essential for staff morale. Which, in turn, leads to improved patient outcomes.”

Navina Evans, NHSE’s chief workforce, training and education officer, said diversity helps “keep more staff, makes it easier to recruit staff and improves care for patients”.

She added: “Improving equality, diversity and inclusion is everyone’s responsibility, starting with leaders. I have faith my colleagues will rise to this challenge.”

Dr Evans said NHSE would “mainstream” its EDI work, rather than “parking it with a few”, earlier this year.