The chief nursing officer for England’s black and minority ethnic strategic advisory group is to expand its leadership structure to align more closely with regional CNOs, in a bid to speed up progress in improving BME representation in senior nursing positions.
Four regional BME nursing strategic leads will be appointed to cover the South of England, London, the Midlands and East of England, and North of England.
“We want representation from all four corners of the country and we want a mix of people from across specialities”
The posts, aimed at nurses in band 8a posts and above, will be expected to work with the chief nurses in each of the NHS England regions to “comment and advise across the healthcare landscape” on equality and diversity matters, by using a range of professional networks.
Those in the new roles will be expected to liaise with organisations about recruitment practices, the development of leadership programmes, and their equality and diversity training.
They will also be expected to work with employers about how far they are improving their recruitment processes in the wake of new national rules introduced last year that require NHS employers to publish the treatment of white staff compared with BME workers – known as the Workforce Race Equality Standard.
At her annual CNO BME strategic advisory group conference on Friday in London, England’s CNO Jane Cummings said that, while there had been some progress in improving BME representation among senior nurses in recent years, it had been “painfully slow”.
She called on more BME nurses to become members of the advisory group and also confirmed that its leadership structure would be widened to more effectively cover all regions of England.
“[The change] will help us have an impact in organisations across the country in a much more strategic and purposeful way”
She said that in the future NHS England would lead the way in improving its own diversity of staffing by boosting data collection on employee background, and also by targeting recruitment of NHS England staff to ensure BME representation improved by at least 3% across all of its directorates.
The group’s outgoing chair Joan Myers, who is due to step down next year after being in the post since 2012, told the conference she was “deeply proud and inspired by what we have achieved”, but urged BME nurses to continue to drive changes.
She noted that the group’s work had so far seen the Care Quality Commission appoint more specialist advisors from a BME background, and that the Nursing and Midwifery Council also now had a more diverse range of panel members for its fitness-to-pracise hearings.
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Felicia Kwaku, deputy chair of the advisory group, told Nursing Times the change in the group’s structure would in future “make sure we are capturing leadership across the country and help us have an impact in organisations in a much more strategic and purposeful way that we can measure”.
“We want representation from all four corners of the country and we want a mix of people from across specialties… They have to have the depth and breadth of knowledge so they can comment and advise across the healthcare landscape irrespective of specialty,” she said.
She added that the group wanted, in particular, to see the appointment of more nursing directors, heads of midwifery and trust deputy chief nurses from a BME background as a result of the expanded structure.
Ms Kwaku highlighted the importance of having BME nurses in senior positions to ensure decisions about services were made that reflected the needs of diverse local communities.
”People need to be inspired – in terms of staff – but also, a lot of us have the lived experience of what it means to be a BME person and to have an altered or lowered health outcome because of your background,” she said.