BME Leadership Network

Strengthening the voice of black and minority ethnic leaders.
Collage of heads in different shades of brown

The BME Leadership Network (BLN) is a member-led network dedicated to establishing a truly diverse NHS leadership by strengthening the voice of black and minority ethnic communities. 

We aim to bring about sustainable change, so the NHS always delivers high quality universal care to all communities, by supporting members to overcome strategic and operational barriers to delivering equality. 

Our offer is aligned to our four strategic pillars of directed action, system influencing, celebration and legacy. 

Watch our short video to learn more about the network's purpose and how it's supporting members.

Our member offer

Our activity programme responds to the needs of members and the prevailing policy context, delivering support in the form of:

Safe spaces to discuss shared experiences including our:

    • The Messenger review highlighted the importance of equality, diversity and inclusion in leadership and in response, the NHS equality, diversity and inclusion improvement plan was published which states that “Where diversity – across the whole workforce – is underpinned by inclusion, staff engagement, retention, innovation and productivity improve.”  
    • The Workforce Race Equality Standard data shows a direct link between staff and patient satisfaction: improving staff experience is essential to improving services and although racism in the NHS is acknowledged, it remains a problem. For example, data shows that in 2023 just 39 per cent of staff from a black background believed that their trust provides equal opportunities for career progression or promotion.  
    • To address persistent racialised health inequalities, it is imperative to embed anti-racism within the operations of the NHS. Our Excellence through equality report highlights the efforts undertaken by our members to enhance services for healthcare workers and patients, recognising anti-racist work as an integral service improvement tool aimed at reducing racial inequalities. 

    Shattered Hopes report findings

    • In our report published in 2022, more than half of surveyed BME NHS leaders considered leaving the health service in the last three years because of their experience of racist treatment while performing their role as an NHS leader. A majority said they had experienced verbal abuse or abusive behaviour targeting racial, national or cultural heritage at least once in the past three years, with more than 20 per cent saying this had happened five times or more.
    • Colleagues, leaders and managers seemed to be a particular source of racist treatment, more so than members of the public.This suggests that more focused efforts are required at every level to reduce the incidence of racist behaviour and to improve awareness among all staff of the impact of this type of discrimination.  
    • Only 10 per cent were confident that the NHS is delivering its commitment to combat institutional racism and reduce health inequalities and fewer than one in four were confident that their organisation has a robust talent management process that is enabling the development of a pipeline of diverse talent.  
    • Senior BME staff reported low levels of confidence in their own organisations’ abilities to manage and support a pipeline of diverse talent and in the ability of the system to achieve this at a national level. Moreover, only a minority were confident they could rely on the support of colleagues to challenge racial discrimination, and a smaller minority believed they would be supported by NHS England and NHS Improvement if challenging prejudice or discrimination locally.  
    • Leaders described how structural and cultural issues within the NHS led to a situation where BME leaders were not present in sufficient numbers to generate a climate of inclusivity and were sometimes siloed in particular types of role. This helped to create a situation where career progression was felt to be unduly challenging and where neither succession planning nor talent development were occurring at sufficient scale to support the next generation of diverse leaders.
    • Being able to be authentic in the workplace was an issue that emerged powerfully. Some leaders reported policing their own behaviour in the workplace and compromising their values in order to fit in. Being able to represent their own cultures and be themselves at work was a critically important goal for many. For BME leaders, feeling secure that they will be treated equally, regardless of background, was seen to be the ultimate success measure of equality.  
    • It is essential that BME leaders are able to see effective development programmes to support diverse talent, and that they are provided with sufficient support, both locally and nationally, to feel secure in calling out unacceptable behaviour when this occurs. 
    • At such a critical juncture for the NHS, action must be taken to end cultures of discriminatory behaviour, to provide personal support to current and aspiring leaders, and to develop succession planning and talent development schemes.
  • The network is open to all NHS leaders from BME backgrounds. We recognise that there are great NHS BME leaders operating in many roles and levels, not just as senior managers, and our network seeks to support them all.

    We also welcome allies to join and support the network.

    Join our movement that supports increased BME leadership within the NHS, head to our membership page and complete our form. 

  • Richard Holder, Head of Global Health Partnerships and Chair of BAME Network, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust 

    "The network's focus on developing political acumen and building resilience has truly equipped me to navigate complex leadership landscapes with confidence.

    One of the greatest assets of this network is the supportive colleagues who encourage and uplift each other along the journey. Their diverse perspectives and experiences have broadened my understanding and enriched my approach to leadership.

    Moreover, the opportunities provided by the network to develop both depth and breadth in my leadership skills have been remarkable. Through various workshops and programmes, I have been able to expand my horizons and gain a holistic understanding of effective leadership.

    What truly sets this network apart is its commitment to equitable leadership. By embracing and promoting an equitable leadership style, the BME Leadership Network has empowered me to challenge systemic barriers and promote inclusivity in my professional endeavors.

    The network has not only enhanced my leadership capabilities but has also transformed my mindset, enabling me to be a more effective and equitable leader. I wholeheartedly recommend this network to anyone seeking comprehensive leadership development and a supportive community."

    Bernadette Thompson OBE FCIPD, Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Kings College Hospital Foundation Trust

    "I highly recommend joining the BME Leadership Network, a vital platform empowering NHS black and minority ethnic leaders. It enhances your voice, fosters support, and contributes to the inclusivity and responsiveness of NHS organisations to diverse community needs."

  • For further information email our team:

  • Stay up to date with our news and join the conversation on:

    X: @NHSC_BMELeaders.  

    LinkedIn: BME Leadership Network 

Join the network

Join a community working together to strengthen the voice of black and minority ethnic NHS leaders. Members of the network will receive our regular news bulletin.

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Equality, diversity and inclusion

Our equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) programme supports members to improve EDI accountability and leadership, tackling inequality through our EDI networks and partnerships.

Discover more about our EDI Programme Arrow pointing right