5 ways our profession is becoming more diverse and inclusive

Although change in the medical profession has been slow, the need for a more diverse workforce has never been so apparent.

Discrimination crossed out circle illustration

Diversity and inclusion are among the core goals of NHS Long Term Plan

Below we have outlined five strategies the healthcare profession has put in place to help build a workforce that is representative of its patients.

Gateway courses at medical school

The medical profession is often characterised by social exclusivity. People from lower socioeconomic backgrounds face additional challenges when accessing education meaning they are often underrepresented in medicine.

Gateway courses are vital to ensure fairer access for all. The number of entry opportunities at UK medical schools increased from 2 in 2002 to 17 in 2019. These courses have successfully attracted students from disadvantaged backgrounds into medicine, improving inclusivity in the field.

NHS Race and Health Observatory

In 2020, the pandemic highlighted healthcare disparities. In response, the NHS set up the Race and Health Observatory to reduce inequalities in healthcare and create a fairer health system. By engaging with ethnic minority workers, the Observatory gathers insights into the link between race and health. The work will be essential in identifying — and responding to — the disproportionate effects of race on staff.

Increased support for disabled doctors

In 2019, the GMC vowed to boost support for disabled doctors. The council set out clear guidance on what medical organisations can do to help disabled doctors reach their full potential, both in education and employment. A study by BMA showed that just 55% of disabled doctors had obtained the adjustments they require to thrive in their positions. Although it is a step in the right direction, there is still work to be done.

Promoting diversity in senior roles

Our evidence shows that 19.7% of staff working for NHS Trusts and CCGs in England are from an ethnic minority background. Yet, only 6.5% of very senior managers are from ethnic minority backgrounds. The NHS People Plan has addressed this need for diversity in leadership as a core goal. The ambitious ‘Building Leadership for Inclusion’ programme aims to tackle the issue by supporting underrepresented groups, while reinforcing the value of diversity at all levels.

Information and education

In October 2020, NHS England published resources to encourage productive conversations about race and take meaningful progressive steps towards diversity and inclusion. Training and education will also be updated to encourage action and valuable contributions in the fight for equality.

Change is happening, albeit gradually.


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