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Taskforce launched to increase diversity amongst NHS leadership

Posted: 20th February 2020

The Yorkshire & Humber Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) welcomes the news that a new task force has been launched by the NHS Confederation to support NHS organisations increase the diversity of their boards and governing bodies.

According to the NHS Confederation, urgent action is needed in order to make NHS boards more representative of their workforce.

The Government has committed to significantly expanding the NHS workforce with further detail expected in the imminent NHS People Plan. The taskforce will be chaired by Dr Clare Gerada, co-chair of the NHS Assembly and Joan Saddler, director of partnerships and equality at the NHS Confederation.

NHS Confederation states that a more diverse workforce has been shown to improve productivity, problem-solving and creativity, as well as job satisfaction. It also argues that in healthcare a diverse workforce can also improve patient outcomes and that this is as crucial at board level as it is in frontline care.

Although the latest figures show that the number of non-executive directors from black and minority ethic (BME) backgrounds has increased there is still further progress to be made.

However, while welcoming this progress, the Confederation argues that more needs to be done and that action is also needed in other areas of diversity, such as age, gender, disability and sexual orientation.

The taskforce will develop a framework to be published in December 2020 to guide NHS organisations seeking to recruit and retain its non-executive directors, including their chairs.

Joan Saddler, director of partnerships and equality at the NHS Confederation, said:

“National commitments to expand the workforce, retain staff and improve frontline services are welcome but NHS organisations must step up to ensure that patients, communities and workers see a diverse range of non-executive directors who are independent members of their local NHS Trust Boards.

“Equality, diversity and inclusion is 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.

“The great news is that some organisations are doing this already – our new taskforce will look to learn from these, spread their work, and identify opportunities to go even further.”

Dr Clare Gerada, co-chair of the NHS Assembly, said:

“I’m delighted to be a non-executive director myself and to be chairing this important taskforce. 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.

“We’ve seen progress, through initiatives like the Workforce Race Equality Standard and Workforce Disability Equality Standard, but we need to keep moving forward, and this taskforce will be key to doing just that.”

Richard Stubbs, Chief Executive, of Yorkshire & Humber Academic Health Science Network and a member of the NHS Assembly, has been invited to join the task force and responded to the launch today saying:

“Board diversity is crucial in ensuring that we transform the NHS in ways that support all our staff and citizens. Diversity of thought, experience and knowledge drives better innovation, and we need NHS boards that are able to offer that challenge and guidance to our governance and decision-making processes. I’m honoured to have been asked to join the taskforce to support this critical agenda.”