Record number of disabled staff in NHS senior management roles

Record number of disabled staff in NHS senior management roles

The number of disabled staff in senior roles in England’s health service has more than doubled over the past three years, according to a new report

The NHS Workforce Disability Equality Standard report for 2021, published during Equality, Diversity and Human Rights Week, shows the proportion of disabled staff at very senior manager level has increased to 3.4% in 2021, from 2.8% in 2020, and 1.6% in 2019.

Similarly, the proportion of Board members declaring a disability has increased from 2% in 2019 to 3.7% in 2021, matching the makeup of the wider workforce for the first time.

More than 52,000 people in the NHS workforce (3.7%) declared a disability through the NHS Electronic Staff Record, an increase of 6,870 compared to 2020.

It also shows that more than three quarters (76.6%) of disabled staff felt that their employer had made adequate adjustments to enable them to carry out their work, an increase of 2.8 percentage points from 2020, and almost all (97.2%) of trusts now actively facilitate the voices of disabled staff to be heard, up from 85% in 2019.

According to NHS England, The Workforce Disability Equality Standard is the only example of an employer mandated standard for disabled staff in the UK.

Christine Rivers, Head of Workforce Disability Equality Standard (WDES) at NHS England said:

“It is encouraging to see the number of disabled people in senior management roles increasing each year, and almost four in five disabled staff believe they have equal opportunities for career progression and promotion.

“We know that the NHS is at its best when it reflects the diversity of our country, at all levels, and how the NHS treats its staff has an impact on how it treats patients, so while the latest data shows promising progress in many areas over the past three years of the WDES, it also shines a light on areas where disparities between disabled and non-disabled staff continue to exist.

“To deliver the ambitious improvements in care set out in our Long Term Plan, the NHS has to make the most of the talent, expertise and skill of every member of staff, and it is crucial that hospitals and other local employers make the changes needed for the NHS to become an exemplar employer for people with a disability”.

Em Wilkinson-Brice, Acting NHS Chief People Officer said:

“The latest report shows an overall improvement in the experience of disabled colleagues working in the NHS, with almost four in five disabled staff believing they have equal opportunities for career progression and promotion. But there is always more we can do.

“The findings will help to inform future strategic development of the WDES and the actions that will be taken in 2022. Initiatives like the WDES Innovation Fund continue to support NHS trusts and other NHS employing organisations to improve the experience and retention of disabled staff but we will continue to work tirelessly to ensure all staff are treated in accordance with our NHS values”.

This is the third WDES annual report for NHS trusts and NHS foundation trusts, and the data is measured against ten metrics that compare the working and career experiences of disabled and non-disabled staff. The findings help to inform future strategic development of the WDES and the actions that will be taken in 2022.

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