NHS organisations in England will be required to show the progress they have made on improving the representation of black and minority ethnic staff in senior positions, under new contractual obligations effective from next month.
The new NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard will apply to almost all NHS organisations – excluding those in primary care and small ones that earn less than £200,000 in a year – and is designed to ensure BME workers are treated fairly at work and during recruitment processes.
“Care is far more likely to meet the needs of all the patients we’re here to serve when NHS leadership is drawn from diverse communities”
It will, for the first time, require organisations to demonstrate how they have improved race equality within their workforce, including specifically if they have addressed the levels of BME representation on their boards to broadly reflect the communities they provide care for.
The Care Quality Commission will consider the new standard in its assessments of how well-led NHS organisations that provide care are from April 2016. It will pilot the new area of inspection in 2015-16.
From next month, it will also be a mandatory requirement for all NHS organisations to use an existing equality toolkit, called the Equality Delivery System 2.
Proposals for the standard and toolkit were unveiled last summer. They will both now be implemented from 1 April, following guidance issued last week by NHS England.
“It is good news for patients and for staff that NHS organisations have adopted this ground breaking evidence-based approach”
Recent research has found BME staff are significantly under-represented in senior management positions within the NHS and at trust board level.
A report published last year by Middlesex University research fellow Roger Kline – called The Snowy White Peaks of the NHS – found that in 2012, 1% of NHS chief executives were BME and 16% of the NHS workforce overall.
The new standard will require organisations to look at nine indicators across three sets of data – workforce information, results from the NHS staff survey, and board composition data.
Indicators include comparing the percentage of BME staff in bands 8 to 9, or in very senior manager positions, with the percentage of BME staff in the overall workforce, as well as determining the relative likelihood of BME staff being appointed to a post from shortlisting, compared with white staff.
The likelihood of BME staff taking part in a formal disciplinary process compared to white staff should also be looked at, as well as the probability of BME staff taking part in non-mandatory training compared with white workers.
Meanwhile, NHS England said that if use of the Workforce Race Equality Standard proved successful it may be adapted to address other equality issues, such as sexual orientation, disability and gender.
Mr Kline, who led the development of the standard, said: “The Workforce Race Equality Standard encourages, and where necessary requires, all NHS providers to treat all black and minority ethnic staff fairly and ensure their full talents are used.
“It is good news for patients and for staff that NHS organisations have adopted this ground breaking evidence-based approach,” he said.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, added: “We know that care is far more likely to meet the needs of all the patients we’re here to serve when NHS leadership is drawn from diverse communities across the country, and when all our frontline staff are themselves free from discrimination.
“These new mandatory standards will help NHS organisations to achieve these important goals,” he said.