Chairs and non-executive directors are crucial to providing the governance needed to deliver the NHS Long Term Plan. They also play a key role in driving forward transformational change across the health service.
But as a community of leaders, they are often not representative of the staff they govern or inclusive of the communities they serve.
Research suggests that they are insufficiently diverse across gender, race, disability and age to be as effective as they need to be.
To address this, the NHS Confederation established an independent taskforce to improve the diversity of chairs and non-executive directors in the NHS.
Made up of senior leaders from across the NHS, the taskforce considered the recruitment processes and retention strategies needed to diversify the composition of NHS boards and governing bodies.
It worked closely with NHS England and NHS Improvement and was supported by the organisation's chief people officer, Prerana Issar, and director of leadership and lifelong learning, Jacqueline Davies.
The taskforce's final report, Strengthening NHS Board Diversity, was published in June 2021.
Dame Clare Gerada, Co-Chair, NHS Assembly
Joan Saddler OBE, Co-Chair, Equality and Diversity Council; Director of Partnerships and Equality, NHS Confederation
- Jagtar Singh OBE, Chair, Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust
- Mark Lam, Chair, Barnet, Enfield and Haringey NHS Trust and East London Foundation Trust
- Dr Kathy McLean, Chair, University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust
- Sam Roberts, Director of Innovation and Life Sciences, NHS England and NHS Improvement
- Adam Doyle, Chief Executive Accountable Officer, Sussex and
- East Surrey CCGs
- Richard Stubbs, Chief Executive, Yorkshire and Humber Academic Health Science Network AHSN
- Dr Robina Shah, MBE DL JP FRCGP (Hon) Project Adviser and Former NHS Foundation Trust Chair
- Dr Maureen Dalziel, Former NHS Chief Executive and Chair
Diversity in leadership is important for the future of the NHS.
Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) is about having best practice in the governance of organisations and better engagement with the staff. For the NHS, this will lead to significant improvements in the standards of care delivered within its institutions.
However, EDI is an area that the NHS needs to make significant progress in to reflect the spirit of the equality and diversity legislation and the NHS’ stated ambition to create a more diverse leadership.
A critical part of the solution is ensuring the chairs and non-executives on the boards of NHS organisations reflect the workforce they govern and are inclusive of the communities they serve. That's why we set up the independent taskforce.
Appointing the right chair and non-executives is a critical task for all NHS organisations.
According to the NHS Leadership Academy, the board selection process provides a defining moment in the development of an organisation. It is the opportunity to ensure that the right people with the right competencies are at the helm, providing leadership and governance that will secure the future of the organisation, fulfil the objectives of the business, and deliver sustainable benefits.
Diverse leadership will also be more able to handle the collaborative governance arrangements that are being taken forward in sustainability transformation partnerships and integrated care systems.
A diverse and inclusive leadership among those appointed to the board roles of NHS organisations will provide the tone of governance needed to:
- address the issue of staff feeling bullied and harassed
- develop the culture recommended by Sir Robert Francis and Professor Don Berwick
- motivate NHS staff to be caring and productive, and to provide more efficient and sensitive patient care.
Balanced boards with leaders drawn from diverse backgrounds with diverse skills are more likely to champion patient and staff engagement, and transform the culture of the health service for the benefit of patients.
Strengthening NHS board diversity
An overview of the key findings and recommendations of the Independent Taskforce on Increasing Non-Executive Director Diversity.
15 June 2021