The government is to announce an “ambitious” new goal to help eliminate the ethnicity pay gap in the health service and also boost ethnic minority representation at senior management level.
Health minister Stephen Barclay will announce a new goal for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) representation in senior leadership to “match that across the rest of the NHS by 2028”.
“I have set an ambitious goal to ensure NHS leadership is as diverse as the rest of the workforce”
It follows recent analysis of NHS ethnicity pay levels, which was commissioned by the Department of Health and Social care and that confirmed ethnicity pay gaps within the health service.
The DHSC said the gap was at its “most stark” among senior, non-clinical managers, where BAME men earnt 11% less than white male managers and, similarly, 9% less for BAME female managers.
Meanwhile, across the NHS as a whole, monthly basic pay showed black male staff were paid 16% less than white male staff, and black female staff were paid 7% less than white female staff.
Asian staff had the highest basic pay on average – at £2,637 for women and £3,764 for men – and black staff had the lowest, at £2,242 for women and £2,551 for men.
The pay disparity was due to fewer BAME staff reaching the most senior levels of the NHS, and as a result, receiving lower average pay, the department highlighted.
“Having an NHS workforce that is representative of the population improves patients’ care”
Diversity across the NHS is above the national average, with BAME staff making up 17% of the non-medical workforce. But only 11% of senior managers are BAME, falling to 6.4% at very senior levels.
The government has today set a goal of ensuring BAME representation at very senior management levels – such as chief executive – matches that across the rest of the NHS workforce within 10 years.
In addition, government arms’-length bodies have also signed up to a new Race at Work Charter also announced today. These include NHS England, Public Health England and Health Education England.
The charter is intended to recognise organisations and business leaders who are taking action to tackle barriers to recruitment or career progression for staff from ethnic minority backgrounds.
It recognises organisations that sign up to the five calls to action. These include appointing an executive sponsor for race, capturing data and publicising progress, and committing at board level to zero tolerance of harassment and bullying.
“Those moving up the career ladder should have role models to aspire to”
In addition, it includes making clear that supporting equality in the workplace is the responsibility of all leaders and managers and taking action that supports ethnic minority career progression.
NHS organisations will be expected to implement similar measures which tackle the root causes of leadership inequality in order to achieve the ambition, said the government.
Health minister Stephen Barclay said: “The NHS is a leading light of talent for people from all communities and backgrounds, with diversity levels far in excess of the national average.
“However, it is unacceptable that this is still not reflected at the very top of the organisation – this kind of inequality has no place in a modern employer and I’m determined to tackle it,” he said.
“That’s why I have set an ambitious goal for the NHS to ensure its leadership is as diverse as the rest of the workforce within the next 10 years, supporting a culture that allows diversity to thrive at all levels,” said Mr Barclay.
“Each and every one of us deserves support to reach our full potential”
In September the NHS became one of the first public sector organisations to publish breakdowns of pay for all staff by ethnic group, with some trusts already publishing their own data and acting.
Meanwhile, earlier this year Sarah-Jane Marsh, chief executive of Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Trust, announced that she would no longer sit on interview panels for senior positions without BAME representation.
Ms Marsh, who is also chair of the National Maternity Transformation Programme, said: “The NHS is alight with some of the most skilled, experienced and talented people imaginable.
“Each and every one of us deserves support to reach our full potential, and to not be held back by anything, including our ethnicity,” she said.
She added: “Today’s announcement is a huge commitment, and will take focused implementation, but if successful, the NHS will be all the richer for it.”
Ifti Majid, chief executive and registered mental health at Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said stronger BAME equality across the NHS also had a “key role to play” for patients.
“Those moving up the career ladder should have role models to aspire to… but similarly patients should be able to receive healthcare that is delivered by those who understand them and their communities,” he said.
Yvonne Coghill, director of the Workforce Race Equality Standard for NHS England, said: “Having an NHS workforce that is representative of the population improves patients’ care, safety and overall satisfaction with the health service.”
She noted that figures had shown a recent increase in senior managers from BME backgrounds and more NHS trusts having board-level BME representation.
But she stated: “Although I’m confident that the NHS in England is moving in the right direction, it’s equally clear that we have some way still to go.”
Ms Coghill also spoke last week at the inaugural Nursing Times Workforce Summit in London, where the issue of race equality, including in senior roles, was debated.
The Department of Health and Social Care is working with NHS Improvement, NHS England and Health Education England to implement the goals for leadership equality.