Skip to main content

White candidates still 50pc more likely to be recruited, says new NHSE data

Published on: 22 Feb 2023

White applicants remain 54 per cent more likely to be appointed from NHS job shortlistings compared to ethnic minority candidates, a metric that has hardly budged since 2016, a NHS England report has revealed.

The 2022 NHS workforce race equality standard report, published today, revealed a significant rise in the proportion of staff from ethnic minority backgrounds. And while there had been progress on some key targets since last year, others have stagnated.

NHSE’s report showed ethnic minority staff comprise 24.2 per cent of the workforce in 2022, up from 22.4 per cent last year and from 17.7 per cent six years ago.

However, it also revealed the likelihood of white applicants being appointed from shortlists was 1.54 times that of minority ethnic applicants in 2022 – only a very small improvement on 1.57 in 2016, when WRES began (see chart below). 

The indicator has fluctuated year-to-year but has remained largely unchanged for more than half a decade. It fell to 1.45 in 2018 before peaking at 1.61 in 2020.

According to regional analysis, the South East and North West have seen year-on-year improvements, but there has been a “progressive deterioration” on the metric in the East of England and the North East and Yorkshire (see line charts at end of article).

The report said: “Recruitment from interview remains the most difficult to change metric, with the likelihood ratio not having changed much since the inception of the WRES.”

The likelihood of staff from ethnic minority backgrounds entering formal disciplinary processes compared to white staff has declined significantly since 2016, and has seen significant progress.

This ratio has dropped from 1.56 in 2016 down to 1.14 this year. However, it has been similar for the past two years.

Again, there is regional variation, with the report noting London was “consistently the most challenged” on this indicator, with the highest ratio despite improvements since 2016. The East of England has “maintained the improvements it made last year”.

Meanwhile, the likelihood that white staff receive non-mandatory training and continuous professional development compared to their ethnic minority colleagues has progressed very slowly, reducing from 1.15 to just 1.12 since 2018 and being higher than the 1.11 reported for 2016. 

Board disparities

The percentage of trust board members from ethnic minority backgrounds has nearly doubled from 7.1 per cent since 2016 to 13.2 per cent in 2022. 

The proportion of very senior managers from ethnic minority backgrounds has also risen, from 9.2 per cent up to 10.3 per cent in the last 12 months.

However, the WRES report pointed out the proportion of ethnic minority board members was not reflective of the overall percentage of ethnic minority staff (13.2 per cent vs 24.2 per cent).

Anton Emmanuel, NHSE’s head of the WRES, said there had been a “notable and sustained” increase in ethnic minority staff in the NHS, as well as board representation, but some remain “subject to inequitable process”.

He added: “We must use the data in this report to drive evidence-based actions to reverse these trends, by replicating pockets of improvement by some trusts across a number of indicators.”

NHSE chief workforce officer Navina Evans said the improvements were “encouraging” but added “there is still more work to do to improve the experience for our BME colleagues”.

NHSE chief executive Amanda Pritchard said figures showed ethnic minority representation in senior roles was heading “in the right direction” but said there was still “significant room for improvement to change the experience of BME staff”.

Action on medical discrimination

NHSE has also published a medical WRES action plan – called The First Five – which aims to tackle the inequality and discrimination faced by doctors from ethnic minority backgrounds.

It follows from the MWRES, first published in July 2021, which highlighted the racial disparities experienced by ethnic minority doctors in recruitment, promotion, pay and workplace experience.

There are five new domains with objectives/targets for improvement:

  1. Reduce the disproportionality of entry into local disciplinary processes and General Medical Council refers for ethnic minority and international medical graduate doctors;
  2. Improve the diversity of senior medical leadership appointments;
  3. Increase ethnic minority representation among the councils of royal colleges to reflect their memberships;
  4. Ensure there are “meaningful” local arrangements for IMG doctors; and
  5. Support SAS doctors to make progress in leadership roles and by reviews of their contracts

The plan was jointly developed alongside the royal medical colleges, regulators and other stakeholders, by Anton Emmanuel, NHSE’s head of the WRES, and Partha Kar, who serves as national speciality advisor on medical workforce inclusion.