In perspective - momentum for change

The paucity of people with black and minority ethnic backgrounds in the top NHS posts must be tackled, argues Pramod Selkar

I was pleased that Simon Stevens criticised the lack of managers with black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds in key NHS management roles soon after becoming head of the NHS in England.

My own observation is that BME staff often have to put in more effort to get the same recognition as white colleagues.

Just weeks earlier, a report on the lack of BME senior healthcare professionals was published, titled The Snowy White Peaks of the NHS.

This study looked at BME representation in NHS London trusts, where BME people make up 41 per cent of NHS staff and 45 per cent of the local population.

It found that:

  • just eight per cent of London NHS trust board members are from a BME background (lower than the 9.6 per cent found in 2006)
  • the proportion of chief executives and chairs from a BME background has decreased from 5.3 per cent to a mere 2.5 per cent
  • two fifths of London trusts had no BME members
  • the proportion of senior managers who are BME has fallen slightly in the last three years

The report also showed that there were no BME executives on the boards of NHS England, Monitor, the NHS Trust Development Authority and Health Education England.

Following the passing of a motion from the CSP BME network at the Annual Representative Conference earlier this year, the society has begun conducting research into the position of BME physiotherapy staff in the NHS in all four countries.

Sue Rees, CSP Council chair, signed a letter on behalf of CSP Council to the prime minister in May to express concern about the findings of the Snowy White Peaks report.

The letter, signed by a range of trade unions and professional bodies, as well as by senior consultants, called for a meeting with the prime minister to discuss practical measures to tackle this issue.

I agree with report author Roger Kline that the problem lies partly in the fact that there is no longer anyone with overall responsibility for NHS workforce equality.

There is no coherent evidence-based strategy for improving things; rather it is up to individual employers to address equality.

The coalition government’s decision to weaken the Public Sector Equality Duty has further exacerbated this problem and many NHS employers have stopped collecting and analysing critical data on race equality.

The CSP is raising these issues via the equality and diversity sub-group of NHS staff council.

CSP stewards should work closely with local union colleagues to put pressure on their trusts and boards to re-prioritise the equality and diversity agenda.

To read Roger Kline’s report, and search for ‘snowy’. 

Concerned BME members can join the BME network and or email:

Pramod Selkar, CSP BME network convenor

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