A taskforce aimed at boosting the numbers of women and ethnic minorities in NHS leadership positions has been launched by the NHS Confederation.
The independent taskforce, made up of senior NHS leaders, will help tackle the ‘material reduction’ in female and BME non-executive board members across the NHS.
It will consider changes to the recruitment process and retention strategies in a bid to make boards and governing bodies more representative of their communities.
The NHS Confederation has stressed the importance of making reforms given that chairs and non-executive directors ‘play a key role in driving forward transformational change across the health service’.
‘A more diverse workforce has been shown to improve productivity, problem-solving and creativity, as well as job satisfaction. In healthcare, a diverse workforce can also improve patient outcomes,’ it added.
The wider picture
The NHS Confederation said ‘urgent action’ is needed to improve diversity in a number of key areas. Last summer, a report it released showed that gender and ethnic diversity in non-executive and chair positions had plummeted over a decade.
However, the figures it released last week show the number of black and minority-ethnic (BME) non-executive directors in England increased by 13% in 2019. While it welcomed this progress, it said more needs to be done to improve representation regarding age, gender, disability and sexual orientation representation.
The 2019 report also showed that women only made up 38% of chair and executive roles – down from 47% in 2002. The ratio of disabled board members has stayed between 4% and 6% in most years.
The taskforce will be chaired by NHS Assembly co-chair Dr Clare Gerada and NHS Confederation partnerships and equality director Joan Saddler.
Dr Gerada, who is herself a non-executive director, has held a number of leadership positions including senior medical adviser to the Department of Health. The professor and London GP was also previously the first female chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) in 50 years. Ms Saddler was awarded an OBE in 2007 for her services to health and diversity during her time as Waltham Forest PCT chair.
The NHS Confederation aims to develop a framework that will guide NHS organisations seeking to recruit and retrain its non-executive directors, including chairs. This will be published in December.
Dr Gerada said: ‘We have to increase diversity and reflect both the NHS workforce and our patient population.
‘Diverse leadership is at the heart of the NHS’s equality, diversity and inclusion agenda, and it is mission-critical to the sustainability and success of the health service.’
Ms Saddler said: ‘Equality, diversity and inclusion are critical to staff engagement and at a senior leadership level it can provide the right tone of governance to address very real issues facing our diverse staff teams and communities.
‘If we are to create a sustainable pipeline of diverse leaders, the NHS must seek ways to accelerate this transition or else we hamper the positive work that programmes such as the Workforce Race Equality Standard have worked to achieve.’