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Low numbers of black and minority nurse leaders is ‘wrong,’ says CNO


A lack of black and minority ethnic nurses in leadership roles is “wrong” and fails to reflect the diversity of people that the health sector workforce serves, England’s chief nursing officer has said.

As part of her keynote speech yesterday at the CNO’s annual summit in Manchester, Jane Cummings urged nurses to lead the way in encouraging greater diversity among staff.

“It is wrong that we have got so few directors of nursing, chief executives, chairs and non-executive directors from BME backgrounds”

Jane Cummings

She also revealed that NHS England was developing quality standards for employers, to be introduced next year, which would ensure health organisations have workforces – including senior teams – that better reflect society’s ethnic diversity.

She said: “What we do at the moment is simply not acceptable – it is wrong that we have got so few directors of nursing, chief executives, chairs and non-executive directors from BME backgrounds. It doesn’t reflect the society we serve and it doesn’t reflect our staff grouping.

“We are determined to do something and I look to you as leaders to help us to deliver that,” she said.

Chief nursing officer

Jane Cummings

In a later session at the CNO summit, research fellow and director of campaigning group Patients First Roger Kline claimed the NHS currently failed to fully address racial discrimination within the service.

He said: “The evidence is that for the 20% of the NHS workforce – and the 20% of midwives and nurses – who have a black and minority ethnic background, their treatment is less favourable on the whole than that of white staff and it is a challenge that the NHS has to some degree failed to deal with and it is one that we must deal with.”

Mr Kline said that “unequivocal” evidence had shown it was more likely that white staff would be appointed to a role from shortlisting than those from BME backgrounds and that it took longer for BME nursing and midwifery graduates to secure their first jobs than their white peers.

Joan Myers, nurse consultant for children and young people at North East London NHS Foundation Trust, said the diversity of the NHS workforce needed to be celebrated and embraced.

“We have a very large BME workforce that the NHS hasn’t been commended for” she said.

Joan Myers

Joan Myers

However, Ms Myers – who is also chair of the CNO BME advisory group – said it was important to have more diverse staff in senior positions, not only to benefit  staff engagement but  because it would improve outcomes for BME patients who may present with different symptoms to white people.

“If you have diversity at different levels you are able to embrace the diverse population that we serve and can provide important care for all patents, not just a few,” she added.


Readers' comments (12)

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  • Pussy

    What ARE you on about? It's all black and minority wherever I work and all fab except for one who was the devil incarnate and was in fact very racist towards white me.eventually she was sacked and not a moment too soon!!

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  • I would rather have white people employed if they are the best candidate, black if they are best and asian if they are best.
    There is no room for racism in a civilised society and positive discrimination is not positive and it merely means that people believe a BME candidate has been promoted because of their colour rather than ability.

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  • For goodness sake, is this really all we have to worry about?
    Can we get back to appointing, promoting or whatever on ability and aptitude, rather than ethnic origin, colour or flavour of the month?

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  • The best person for the job, simple. All this nonsense about race, colour, religion, sexual identity or preference are all irrelevant.

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  • Also, where is this evidence that people are being discriminated against. If it is true, then those managers, employers etc should be prosecuted. This article has no references with which to validate such statements. Keep the playing field even for all people, there is no need to promote discrimination whether it is positive or not....

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  • Having read the last few comments, it's not hard to see why we still don't have diversity at nurse leader level.

    How unenlightened

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  • Readers and commentators might find this link to Roger Kline's work useful: and might also benefit from this short vid by Yvonne Coghill and Dave Ashton on equality and diversity in the NHS

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  • I find the comments on this article astonishing. The evidence is freely available and has not been challenged as Robert Wright points out.

    The problem is that at present we do no have a level playing field so we don't always appoint the best person for the job, we appoint "people like us". I do worry how people who don't understand discrimination against staff act in respect of health inequalities that may be linked to ethnicity?


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  • Are Nurses still having this discussion? How embarrassing.

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