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NHS plan pledges to support BAME staff and diversity at top

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NHS leaders have pledged that “respect, equality and diversity” will be at the heart of a major new workforce plan for the health service in England, which is set to be published later this year.

Following the NHS Long Term Plan, which was revealed earlier today, health service leaders have said there will be a separate workforce implementation plan later in 2019 that will have black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff as an important part of it.

“Respect, equality and diversity will be central to changing the culture and will be at the heart of the workforce implementation plan,” they stated in the document published today.

“We fall short in valuing their contributions and ensuring fair treatment and respect”

NHS Long Term Plan

They added: “The NHS draws on a remarkably rich diversity of people to provide care to our patients. But we fall short in valuing their contributions and ensuring fair treatment and respect.” 

The long-term plan’s fourth chapter, which is dedicated to the issue of workforce, promised extra annual investment in NHS England’s ongoing work to promote greater diversity in NHS leadership roles. 

Through the existing Workforce Race Equality Standard, which was made mandatory for NHS organisations in 2015-16, the government arms’-length body claimed it was “making progress” in addressing issues from the perspective of BAME staff.

It acknowledged, however, that two years was not enough time to achieve the “necessary change”. Therefore, NHS England has announced in the long-term plan that an extra £1m a year would be invested in extending the work of the WRES until 2025.

In future, this would include targets set at local level to improve the diversity of NHS leadership groups, according to the long-term plan today.

“Each NHS organisation will set its own target for BAME representation across its leadership team and broader workforce by 2021-22,” it said. “This will ensure senior teams and boards more closely represent the diversity of the local communities they serve.” 

Previous research has found BAME staff are significantly under-represented in senior NHS posts and also more likely to face disciplinary proceedings and generally feel discriminated against.

A seminal report published in 2014 by Middlesex University research fellow Roger Kline – called The Snowy White Peaks of the NHS – suggested the service was open to claims of being “institutionally racist”.

Today’s long-term plan also stated that NHS England would develop a new Workforce Disability Equality Standard with the aim for the health service to become a “model employer” in this regard.

The plan goes on to highlight the importance of ensuring equality for women – who, it noted, made up three quarters of the NHS workforce. As part of work to improve the situation, NHS leaders said that a review of the gender pay gap for doctors would “contribute to gender equality in the NHS”.

“However, the issue is broader and more complex and, in addition, concerns about the experiences of LGBT+ staff are highlighted by the staff survey,” it noted.

The plan also identified that a new chief people officer role, to be based with NHS England, would help to support equality and diversity among the health service workforce, and also work with existing bodies and groups.

“Each NHS organisation will set its own target for BAME representation across its leadership team”

NHS Long Term Plan

It said: “To strengthen our existing programme to support equality and diversity in the NHS, the new chief people officer will consider what more we need to do involving the Social Partnership Forum, NHS Employers, and members of the NHS Equality and Diversity Council,” the plan explained.

The new 10-year plan for the health service was published at 12pm today, after being delayed since the end of last year – reportedly due to the chaos around Brexit.

The blueprint sets out how the £20.5bn annual budget increase for the health service, which was promised last summer by prime minister Theresa May, will be spent.

Ahead of its publication, some of the main aims and innovations to be included in the plan were revealed in a statement by NHS England.

Maternity care, children’s services, cancer care, mental health and heart disease were all highlighted as being set to benefit, along with funding boosts for community care, digital technology and prevention.

The last time a 10-year strategy document was drawn up covering the whole health service in England was the NHS Plan, which was published in 2000 by the Labour government under Tony Blair.

  • More details on the NHS long-term plan can be found on a website created by NHS England along with the document itself.
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