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Disabled NHS staff nearly twice as likely to enter performance management process

By Jess Hacker
12 May 2022

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Disabled NHS staff are nearly twice as likely as their non-disabled colleagues to enter the performance management process, NHS England has reported.

According to the annual Workforce Disability Equality Standard (WDES) report, disabled staff were 1.94 times more likely to be referred into the formal capability process than staff who are not disabled, up from 1.53 times in 2020.

The WDES – which was launched in 2019 as part of the NHS Long Term Plan – saw more than 52,000 people in the NHS workforce (3.7%) declare a disability, with all trusts in England mandated to take part.

NHS England urged trusts to work with disabled staff and networks to review their capability policies and processes in light of the finding.

The report also highlighted that disabled staff are significantly more likely to suffer bullying, harassment and abuse from a manager than non-disabled staff.

And more than half (50.2%) of disabled staff in ambulance trusts experienced harassment, bullying or abuse from patients and the public.

However, the WDES also revealed there is a record number of disabled staff in senior NHS management roles, with the proportion working in senior management roles more than doubling to 3.4% in 2021 since 2019.

Similarly, the proportion of board members declaring a disability rose from 2% in 2021 to 3.7%, in line with the wider workforce for the first time.

And more than three quarters (76.6%) of disabled staff felt their employer made sufficient adjustments to let them carry out their work.

Miriam Deakin, director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, welcomed the report, noting it had ‘undoubtedly helped organisations’ improve disabled colleagues’ experiences.

She said: ‘We are very concerned, however, that disabled staff are nearly twice as likely to be referred to a performance management process, and significantly more likely to suffer bullying, harassment and abuse from patients and colleagues compared to staff who are not disabled.

‘Trust leaders and colleagues in national NHS bodies and government must continue to focus on creating inclusive environments. A considerable gap remains between the proportion of staff identifying themselves as disabled anonymously within the NHS staff survey and those who feel confidant to do so with their employer. It is vital that this discrepancy is addressed.’

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