Why should we decisively make progress on NHS workforce race equality, and how? NHS workforce race equality

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By every measure the NHS has fallen short in the treatment of its black and minority ethnic (BME) staff and in BME representation at senior levels. Ten years ago the NHS Race Equality Action Plan was launched with ministerial support, yet a decade later no progress appears to have been made on any measure.

Research by Roger Kline, notably in Discrimination by appointment (2013) and The snowy white peaks of the NHS (2014), confirmed the scale of the challenge.

Extended research by Michael West, Jeremy Dawson and colleagues added to the importance of meeting the challenge, by demonstrating the correlation between the treatment of BME staff and the patient experience, while there is robust evidence on the positive impact of diverse teams and leaderships on innovation in particular. In London, especially, there is a serious disjuncture between the composition of the workforce and the local population on the one hand, and trust and national leaderships on the other.

In 2014, the incoming NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens identified NHS shortcomings on race equality as a significant challenge needing to be met and announced that a national consultation on an NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard would be set up. The Standard encourages NHS organisations to copy the best organisations because it makes sense for health care but will require all organisations to start to tackle the shortcomings in the treatment and representation of BME people within the NHS.

At this breakfast event, Roger Kline discussed the scale and nature of the challenge and the evidence that this approach is the right one.


Roger Kline

Research Fellow, Middlesex University Business School

Roger is a research fellow at Middlesex University Business School, specialising in NHS workplace culture. Over the previous 25 years he has worked for eight trade unions, many at senior level, and within the public, private and voluntary sector.

He was a member of the Equality Challenge Unit Board (2006–08) and the Higher Education Working Party on Race and Degree Attainment (2007–08). Roger has authored guidance on race equality in the NHS and most recently researched Discrimination by appointment (2013) and The snowy white peaks of the NHS (2014).

He has helped lead and successfully conclude complex negotiations including the then largest ever equal pay settlement (NHS speech and language therapists) and the higher education pay 'framework agreement' and its underpinning job evaluation scheme, preceded by helping win a landmark test case for part-time staff (Susan Birch, 2005).

Roger is an unpaid director of Patients First, the NHS whistleblowers network, and special adviser to the chair and chief executive of Public Concern at Work, the whistleblowing charity. Forthcoming academic work includes analyses of the role of both HR and trade unions in Mid Staffordshire.