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Disabled staff now twice as likely to face capability review

Published on: 20 Mar 2024

Disabled NHS staff are more than twice as likely to enter capability processes based on performance than their colleagues, according to NHS England.

Data from the latest NHS workforce disability equality standard report found the “relative likelihood” of this among disabled staff increased from 1.53 times in 2020 to 2.17 in 2023.

It has also increased each year over the past four years, according to the WDES measures. The report does not comment on why this indicator may be steeply deteriorating, in contrast to several other disability discrimination metrics (see below).

The report said disabled staff are “increasingly overrepresented” in these procedures.

And it suggests that, across the past four years, 4.9 per cent of the total workforce declared a disability, whereas, among staff who enter a formal capability process due to ill-health, 8 per cent have a declared disability, and for staff who enter a formal capability process due to performance, the figure is 9.1 per cent.

The WDES report says trusts with a high relative likelihood for disabled staff “should undertake investigations to identify potential causes”, although warns some local results are skewed by very small numbers.

Other metrics improve

NHSE found significant variation at trust level in the appointment of disabled and non-disabled staff from shortlisting, despite continued national improvement.

The WDES showed disabled applicants are no longer less likely to be appointed from shortlisting compared to non-disabled candidates for roles, decreasing from 1.18 in 2019 to 0.99 in 2023.

The report said: “While the statistical test suggests that, on average, recruitment practices are fair for disabled applicants, the results for individual trusts vary considerably. Some trusts are five times more likely to appoint non-disabled applicants than disabled applicants.

“Additionally, many staff do not declare a disability during the recruitment process, suggesting that a continued focus is needed on creating inclusive cultures and practices that give people confidence in declaring a disability at the application stage.”

It added that a further improvement on this metric, from 0.99 down to 0.89, would lead to an additional 1,950 disabled applicants being appointed across England.

Other metrics have seen a continued improvement over the past five years.

The overall rate of staff declaring a disability has increased year-on-year since 2019, from 3.1 per cent up to 4.9 per cent.

This has also increased among board membership, from 2 per cent to 5.7 per cent over a four-year period. At least 193 board members have declared a disability, a rise of 130 from 2019, according to the WDES.

However, one-sixth of staff are still listed as “unknown”, at 16.6 per cent, which is higher among board members at 19.9 per cent. At least 23 trusts have at least half of their board members with an “unknown” disability status.

Navina Evans, NHSE’s chief workforce officer, said in the report’s foreword: “As the NHS staff survey shows, nearly one in four members of our NHS workforce has lived experience of a disability or long-term condition.

“If we are to achieve the ambitions set out in the NHS long-term workforce plan, to improve training and retention and deliver new ways of working, we must also do so through a disability inclusive lens.”