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NHS equal opportunities pledge welcomed by the BMA

Doctors have welcomed a pledge to tackle race inequality across the NHS, ensuring better high-level representation for BME (black and minority ethnic) groups.

DiversityThe NHS EDC (Equality and Diversity Council) today announced action to ensure employees from BME backgrounds had equal access to career opportunities and fair treatment in the workplace.

The move is intended to address disparities in the number of BME people in senior leadership positions across the NHS, as well as lower levels of well-being among the BME population.

Two measures have been proposed which, if approved, would begin in April 2015. The first proposal would require NHS employer organisations to implement a workforce race-equality standard.

This would check progress against a number of indicators of workforce equality, including a specific indicator to address the low levels of BME board representation.

Better representation

BMA council chair Mark Porter (pictured below) said it was a positive step towards tackling the race inequalities identified by the EDC. 

Dr Porter said: ‘Doctors are already a much more diverse group than the overall NHS workforce and a high number of BME leaders in the health service are doctors.

Mark Porter‘But this does not mean more shouldn’t be done to ensure that BME staff are better represented at the top of the NHS.’

The BMA is also working on this issue.

Dr Porter added: ‘In the coming months we will be hosting a symposium to discuss the recent concerns around the clinical training and assessment of BME doctors with a view to identifying barriers and solutions for the future.

‘Internally, we are taking action to tackle the under-representation of women on BMA committees through our Women and Leadership Project, which aims to develop policies to encourage active participation in the BMA and make our committees much more representative of our members.’

'For the people'

NHS England chief executive and EDC chair Simon Stevens said: ‘We want an NHS “of the people, by the people, for the people”.

‘That is because care is far more likely to meet the needs of all the patients we are here to serve when NHS leadership is drawn from diverse communities across the country, and when all our frontline staff are themselves free from discrimination.’

Alongside the proposed equality standard, the NHS will be consulted on whether the Equality Delivery System should become mandatory. 

This is currently a voluntary toolkit, in use across the NHS, which aims to help organisations improve the services they provide for their local communities and provide better working environments for all groups.

Patients Association spokesperson Katherine Murphy said: ‘Diversity in leadership is associated with more patient-centred care, improved patient access, experience and outcomes and higher staff morale, which ultimately is the aim for everyone using and working across the NHS.’

 Find out more about the BMA Women and Leadership Project

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