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22.05.14

Stevens calls for greater diversity in NHS leadership

NHS England boss Simons Stevens has called for “greater diversity” in the leadership of the NHS, during The King’s Fund’s annual leadership summit. 

He argued that the healthcare service has the power to unleash “creative energy” especially if it works together with patients and carers. However, he conceded that this will be easier when the “leadership of the NHS better mirrors the people we serve”. 

Only last month a report by Robert Kline at Middlesex University revealed the number of senior NHS positions held by people of black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds has hardly changed since 2006. 

In fact, his study – The “snowy white peaks” of the NHS – highlighted that the proportion of people from BME backgrounds appointed to NHS trust boards has fallen from a high of 8.7% in 2006 to just 5.8% in 2013. 

During The King’s Fund summit, Stevens, who took over from Sir David Nicholson on 1 April, said that this can’t be right and change needs to happen. 

“As Roger Kline’s recent research has pinpointed – ten years after the launch of the NHS race equality plan, while 41% of NHS staff in London are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds (similar in proportion to the Londoners they serve) only 8% of trust board directors are, with two-fifths of London trust boards having no BME directors at all,” he said. 

The 47-year-old stated that diversity in leadership is associated with more patient-centred care, greater innovation, higher staff morale, and access to a wider talent pool. 

“In my own career, I reflect on the fact that down the years I’ve benefited from having had three black bosses and a woman as my line manager, but in each case that’s been when I’ve been working outside the NHS. That needs to change,” Stevens stated. 

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@nationalhealthexecutive.com

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