Junior Doctors are set to bring the NHS to a standstill

The NHS has been accused of failure to use the talents of women and people from ethnic minorities, after research showed they are badly under-represented in senior positions.

Despite a two-year drive to rectify the problem, far fewer people from either group chair an NHS acute hospital trust or ambulance trust in England than would be proportionate to their numbers in the population, freedom of information responses show. They are also much less likely to be non-executive directors of trusts than white men.

Only two percent of NHS trusts are chaired by people from a black and minority ethnic (BME) background, while 15 percent of England’s population is of BME heritage.

While 80 percent of NHS staff are women, women make up just 28 percent of trust chairs, outnumbered three to one by men.

The findings are based on data from about 1,450 board members at 114 trusts.

The results appear to indicate that Simon Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive, has achieved little in his drive over the last two years to improve the number of BME people moving into top jobs. “The barriers for people from a BME background in getting top executive positions have been well-documented and there is little sign of much progress,” Hunt said.

The report, called Action not words – Making NHS boards more representative, suggests that the NHS may not easily meet its ambition of having a 50/50 gender split on boards by 2020.

People from a BME background make up just four percent of the executive directors and seven percent of non-executive directors on trust boards.

While 47 percent of trusts’ executive directors are female, women comprise just 38 percent of the non-executive roles on boards.

Three-quarters of NHS trust chairs are aged 60 or over, while just under half of non-executive directors are in the same age bracket.

Stevens recently reiterated that the NHS had to become much better at appointing people from a BME background to senior roles because research showed it led to better care. “We know that care is far more likely to meet the needs of all patients we’re here to service when NHS leadership is drawn from diverse communities across the country, and when our frontline staff are themselves free from discrimination,” he said.

An NHS England spokesperson said:

“This is an issue that the NHS must address. That’s why in June this year we published the first NHS workforce race equality standard (WRES) report, which gave feedback to every hospital and trust across the NHS about the experiences of their BME staff. While some employers have got it right, we know there’s a long way to go, and this first annual survey provides a transparent baseline from which we expect to see improvement.

“We’re investing £2m over two years (2015-17) in the WRES programme to improve equality in recruitment, board membership and career opportunities. This includes training and developing 75 champions based in trusts who will help reduce inequality and spread best practice.”