Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

NHS equality standard unveiled to improve career chances for BME staff


NHS organisations are to be forced to increase the representation of ethnic minorities in senior positions or face contractual and regulatory consequences, it has been announced.

NHS England has unveiled proposals that will impose a new national workforce race equality standard on the health service from April next year.

The same standard will be expected of clinical commissioning groups and NHS England itself.

The Care Quality Commission, Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority will be asked to make “explicit” to providers that compliance with the new standard will be part of their assessment of whether organisations are well-led.

Under the proposal agreed by the NHS Equality Diversity Council, which is chaired by NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens, employers will need to demonstrate improvement across a range of metrics.

These will include a specific indicator to address low levels of representation on NHS trust boards of people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

Other measures on which trusts will be judged responses to questions on diversity from the NHS staff survey and on workforce metrics which include the recruitment of BME staff, access to non-mandatory training opportunities and the likelihood of BME staff being subject to disciplinary action.

Healthcare workers

The proposal document, agreed by the council at a meeting last Tuesday, said: “NHS boards should be engaged and supported to make continual improvements, and allowed time to make the necessary change, with the clear expectation that failure to make progress will result in contractual/regulatory action.”

A working group set up in May to respond to concerns over BME representation accepted there was a risk the approach of contractual and regulatory pressure could be viewed as a “blunt performance management tool”.

But in reporting back to the council the group said: “leaving the system to ‘put its house in order’ simply has not worked.”

A report by Middlesex University research fellow Roger Kline in April – called The Snowy White Peaks of the NHS – highlighted “glacial” change in the proportion of senior NHS positions held by people from BME backgrounds with barely any improvement in eight years.

Mr Kline said: “This proposal to implement a new standard is exactly the kind of decisive action we need to drive improvements and address inequalities across the sector.

Roger Kline

Roger Kline

“This innovative approach could have an extremely powerful impact for staff and patients alike, and has the potential to change the face of the NHS.”

The consultation will also include a proposal to make mandatory an existing equality toolkit for the NHS, called the Equality Delivery System 2.

The toolkit aims to help organisations improve the services they provide for local communities and create better working environments for staff.


Rate this article 

Click to rate

  • 1 star out of 5
  • 2 stars out of 5
  • 3 stars out of 5
  • 4 stars out of 5
  • 5 stars out of 5

0 out of 5 stars

Readers' comments (3)

What do you think of the new national workforce race equality standard? Is the NHS guilty of institutional racism?

  • I am sorry that a proposal, it seem to me to force change of this kind has to be implemented. I wish that it did not come to this. I will always believe that it is important to give the job to the person who is best able to do the job.
    I came to this country over twenty five years ago to do nursing. I worked all over the UK, in a lot of different types of nursing post, I am well respected for my quality and standard however, I can not move from band 5 to band 6, as every time I go for an interview a younger white always gets the post even though I am too educated for my shirt, too hard working and able to manage effectively.
    Recently I went for a grade 6, got beaten by a young blond who qualified a couple of years ago. A friend who is in the know said that, the grade 6 post was engineered for this young nurse to get this temporary grade 6, so she can be moved on to grade 6 or 7 when the grade 6 & 7 become permanent on another ward.
    Talk about it is not what you know, it is all about who you know.
    I remember in my early years of training I would be left to do the toileting after lunch and my white colleagues would be taken aside for teaching and thoughout my nursing I had lots of ill treatment because of my colour.
    Recently I was in charge (name on board)and the site manager pass me by on the corridor, went up to the white nurse and requested information on the bed status, another time another site manager reported about a new patient to a white HCA when I was in charge (name on board).
    I used to hurt real bad, but not any more. I rise above them in my own way and one day I look forward to leaving nursing for good.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Whilst accepting there is an issue, and Dr Kline has provided some of the evidence, with BME discrimination in the NHS, how long will it take people to remember there are other protected characteristics too; maybe less visible, and maybe harder to collect the evidence due to people's fear of being identified with that characteristic.

    How many health care staff dare to admit to having a long-term health condition which meets criteria for disability under Equality Act? How many LGBTQI staff feel able to be open about it without risk to their career?

    This is a positive move for one group, but I cannot wait until the NHS is able to recognise other issues exist too. It will be too late for me - despite Occ Health clearance and no sick leave for several years, a registered nurse seeing and leaking my equal opportunities form hass cost me my career, my health, my income, and soon my home.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Adedapo Haastrup

    Yes, The NHS in some ways , is partially guilty of institutional Racism. As far as I am concerned The New National workforce Race Equality standard is not effective. More needs to be done for integrating BME Multi-Cultural Nurses into work place in the Health system.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.