The NHS workforce is more diverse than ever

The NHS workforce is more diverse than ever
© shutterstock/Gorodenkoff

New figures reveal that the NHS workforce is more diverse than ever recorded in history, according to an annual report into race equality across the health service.

The NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard is an annual report highlighting the diversity of the NHS workforce. The report shows that Black and minority ethnic (BME) staff make up almost one-quarter of the NHS workforce overall (24.2% or 383,706 staff) – an increase of 27,500 people since 2021 (22.4% of staff).

Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, said: “Figures from today’s Workforce Race Equality Standard report show the number of BME staff in very senior roles and on NHS boards continuing to go in the right direction, which evidence shows is not only better for staff, but for patients too.”

BME NHS workforce is growing

The report outlines that more than two-fifths (42%) of doctors, dentists, and consultants and almost one-third (29.2%) of our nurses, midwives, and health visitors are from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds. 

Figures show increases in representation at board level, such as executive board roles; however, BME staff still remain proportionally under-represented in senior positions. The NHS Long Term Plan has called for every NHS trust to set its own target for senior BME representation reflective of their overall workforce. 

Furthermore, the number of Black and minority ethnic board members across all NHS trusts have increased to 13.2% in 2022, up from 12.6% the year before and almost double what it was in 2017 (7%). In the past 12 months, BME senior managers have increased from 9.2% to 10.3%.

Dr Navina Evans, NHS England’s Chief Workforce Officer, said: “It is encouraging to see improvements in today’s report, but it is also clear that there is still more work to do to improve the experience for our BME colleagues.

“As we create the new NHS England and redesign our approach to delivery, it will be essential to work alongside our system partners to maximise impact and create the change we all want to see.”

Tackling inequalities in the NHS

 The new WRES action plan has also been published and sets out the “first five” practical actions to tackle existing inequalities in the medical workforce. This includes graduates in General Medical Council referrals, improving diversity in senior medical leadership appointments, and increasing BME representation in the councils of royal medical colleges to better reflect the NHS workforce. 

The WRES report shows:

  • 29.2%of ethnic minorities and 27% of white staff reported harassment, bullying, or abuse from patients, an increase from 28.9% and 25.9% respectively. 
  • There was a modest reduction in staff bullying reported for ethnic minority and white staff. A drop from 28.8% to 27.6% for ethnic minority staff and 23.2% to 22.5% for white staff.
  • The percentage of staff believing their trust provides equal opportunities for career progression and opportunities has fallen for white staff from 59.6% to 58.7%. There was a modest improvement for ethnic minority staff, to 44.4% from 44% in 2021.
  • White shortlisted job applicants were 1.54 times more likely to be appointed from shortlisting than BME shortlisted applicants – an improvement from 1.61 in 2021. While data for BME staff entering formal disciplinary process remains unchanged from 2021 at 1.14 times, a vast improvement from its peak in 2016 at 1.56.
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