"Disgraceful" NHS trust board diversity

New statistics highlight underrepresentation of minority ethnic groups and women as NHS trust chairs

23 Aug 2016 by Olivia Wannan

The NHS remains plagued by its “snowy white peaks” – the overrepresentation of white men in its top jobs – according to The Guardian.

The media organisation has found that just 2% of NHS and ambulance trusts are chaired by people who are black or have a minority ethnic background (BME), while only 28% of trust chairs are women.

The Guardian contrasted that with the 15% of the population who are BME, and the 80% of NHS staff who are women.

These results come from freedom of information responses, looking at 1450 board members at 114 NHS and ambulance trusts.

Labour House of Lords Shadow Health Minister, Philip Hunt, told the media organisation that: "The lack of women chairs is bad enough. But the BME proportions are disgraceful."

Back in 2014, a Middlesex University report for NHS England highlighted the need for more diversity, quoting Health Service Journal editor, Alastair McLellan: "Any group of leaders will tend to recruit in their own image, meaning those who do not fit that image will struggle for a peer group and support."

"But the ‘snowy peaks’ problem has its own unique mix of characteristics," he wrote in 2013.

Speaking to The Guardian, an NHS England spokesperson said: "This is an issue that the NHS must address. That’s why in June this year we published the first NHS workforce race equality standard (WRES) report, which gave feedback to every hospital and trust across the NHS about the experiences of their BME staff."

While not specifically mentioning board chairs, the statement continued: "While some employers have got it right, we know there’s a long way to go, and this first annual survey provides a transparent baseline from which we expect to see improvement."

"We’re investing £2m over two years (2015–17) in the WRES programme to improve equality in recruitment, board membership and career opportunities," the spokesperson explained.

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