NHS workforce race and disability reports highlight need for further action

18 March 2024

Responding to the NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) and Workforce Disability Equality Standard (WDES) reports published today, Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive at NHS Providers said:

"Trust leaders remain dedicated to improving working conditions for ethnic minority and disabled staff, but substantial challenges persist, including in relation to supporting career progression and tackling harassment, bullying and abuse.

"While ethnic diversity in the NHS workforce has increased, the speed at which this is happening at board level, particularly among executives, is not keeping pace with overall diversity of the workforce. This has led to a stark disparity in board representation.

"Progress has been made in addressing disciplinary gaps between ethnic minority and white staff, but this divide remains at almost half of trusts in England, showing more must be done to tackle the issue. Furthermore, the findings show that specific focus is needed on providing equal opportunities for career progression and promotion for staff from a black background.

"We welcome the WRES report's first-time inclusion of analysis of internationally recruited nurses and their experiences at work. It acknowledges their vital role in healthcare, however, it also raises important questions about workforce sustainability and retention. 

"The WDES report shows an increase in people with a disability on NHS boards compared to previous years, which is very encouraging. However, there is still a worrying disparity between staff declaring a disability to their employer and those anonymously reporting one via the NHS Staff Survey. This indicates more must be done to ensure everyone who needs to declare a disability feels comfortable to do so.

"These report findings, along with the latest NHS Staff Survey showing ethnic minority and disabled staff are more likely to experience abuse from patients and the public, underline the need for urgent action to ensure staff feel safe. 

"The NHS has a zero-tolerance approach to racism, bullying, and harassment, but a renewed focus on equality, diversity and inclusion initiatives and roles in the NHS is vital to stamp out this behaviour. NHS England's Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Improvement Plan is pivotal in this endeavor.

"All NHS staff should be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of protected characteristics."