Diversity Issue in NHS Management Worries New Chief Executive

Newly assigned NHS head Simon Stevens is worried on the lack of diversity in its management.

Stevens said in a recent summit for NHS leadership and management held at King’s Fund that the current diversity percentage of the NHS is not reflective of the diversity enjoyed by communities being served by the government agency.

Stevens assumed the top NHS post last April 1 after 8 years of leadership by Sir David Nicholson. The current NHS diversity issue has been around for quite some time and Stevens noted that Nicholson failed to make changes notwithstanding the passage of NHS race-equality plan a decade ago.

In particular, Stevens cited the problem involving NHS London. Black and ethnic minorities (BME) occupy 41% of staff positions in the health authority’s London arm, a percentage which closely mirrors the BME population of London. But the total number of its trust board directors is overwhelmingly white with just 8% BME directors. He also expressed concern over the fact that 2/5 of NHS London boards have no directors with black and ethnic minority backgrounds. 

The apparent lack of diversity in its leadership is causing problems to the agency, Stevens said. He pointed out that diversity is important in ensuring quality care of patients, attracting more talent, boosting personnel morale, and encouraging innovation.

The UK population has recently experienced increased in diversity. While 87% of UK’s population is white, the 2011 Census showed that 14% is made up of black and ethnic minorities, a 7.9% increase from a decade ago.

Stevens is crafting a plan to bring a balance in NHS management diversity. In particular, he has tasked an equality and diversity group to develop measures that will address the shortage in leadership diversity. The group is expected to reveal its plan on July 29.    


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