World leading experts appointed to NHS Race and Health Observatory

World-class expertise brought together to form NHS Race and Health Observatory board.

14 January 2021

The NHS Race and Health Observatory, which is supported by NHS England and hosted by the NHS Confederation, has appointed its full board of non-executive directors, bringing in some of the world’s leading experts on health inequalities.

Members include Professor Sir Michael Marmot, of the UCL Institute of Health Equity; Professor David Williams, of the Harvard School of Public Health; Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing; Professor Kevin Fenton, London regional director for Public Health England; and Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the council of the British Medical Association.

Announced in May 2020, the Observatory will work towards tackling ethnic and racial inequalities in healthcare for patients, communities and the NHS workforce. The Observatory now has a total of 15 board members. It appointed Marie Gabriel CBE as chair and Dr Habib Naqvi MBE as director last summer.

Data published in May 2020 by the Office for National Statistics found that black men are more than four times more likely to die from COVID-19 than white men. As COVID-19 infection rates rise and the crisis continues to cast into sharp relief the inequalities that have long affected people from BME backgrounds and communities, the Observatory’s work is and will continue to be highly relevant. 

The newly appointed members of the board are:

  • Lord Victor Adebowale, chair of the NHS Confederation;
  • Professor John Appleby, director of research and chief economist, Nuffield Trust;
  • Dr Halima Begum, chief executive, The Runnymede Trust;
  • Professor Kevin Fenton, regional director (London), Public Health England;
  • Professor Stephani Hatch, professor of sociology and epidemiology, King's College London;
  • Dr Adrian James, president, Royal College of Psychiatrists;
  • Lord Ajay Kakkar, Professor of Surgery, University College London (from July 2021);
  • Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary, Royal College of Nursing;
  • Professor Sir Michael Marmot, director, Institute of Health Equity, University College London;
  • Patricia Miller, chief executive, Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust;
  • Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the council, British Medical Association;
  • Professor James Nazroo, professor of sociology, University of Manchester;
  • Heather Nelson, chief executive, Black Health Initiative;
  • Professor David Williams, professor of public health, Harvard University

Lord Kakkar will take up his post on the board in July 2021.

Marie Gabriel, chair of the NHS Race and Health Observatory, said: “I am extremely proud of the world-class expertise we have brought together in forming the board of the NHS Race and Health Observatory. Each board member has an extraordinary reputation in the UK, and abroad, as reformers and innovators for change. They will bring much insight and challenge to our joint ambition to reduce the systematic health inequalities experienced by our diverse communities.

“The next few years are going to be very challenging for our healthcare system as it changes and rebuilds, and there is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the urgent need for more action both to understand and tackle deep-seated and longstanding ethnic inequalities in health. I look forward to working with experts of this calibre to better understand and tackle these inequalities head-on.”

Lord Victor Adebowale, chair of the NHS Confederation, which hosts the NHS Race and Health Observatory, said: “This is a watershed moment for the NHS as an institution. The Observatory has now brought together some of the most renowned and influential minds in this sphere, and I’m extremely proud of the NHS Confederation’s position as host.

“The impact of COVID-19 on black and minority ethnic communities and healthcare staff has cast a harsh glare on racial inequalities and their root causes. With these appointments, the NHS Race and Health Observatory will be able to get on with the vital work of identifying and helping to redress the invidious inequalities that have plagued healthcare for far too long, in turn, improving outcomes for all patients, communities and NHS staff.”

Dr Habib Naqvi, director of the NHS Race and Health Observatory, said: “The challenges our healthcare system faces today are large, as they are in many nations, but equally great is the potential to be a global model in the pursuit of better care for all individuals and better health for all of our diverse populations.

“The newly appointed board members bring a tremendous wealth of knowledge and expert experience. I look forward to working closely with the board as we lead innovation and change in this area, and improvement in the health of our patients, communities and staff from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.”

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: “The creation of the Race and Health Observatory is a pivotal moment in the efforts to overcome longstanding race inequalities in health, and I’m delighted to be able to play my part on the Board.

“The alarming and disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had on ethnic minorities has reinforced the urgent need to address the structural race inequalities in our society.

“Through utilising data, evidence and expert analysis, the Observatory will have a key role in recommending action to address inequalities facing BME communities and NHS staff, and vitally, to improve outcomes.

“The BMA looks forward to representing the voice of the medical profession and hopes that the insight and expertise of the Observatory will shape future progress and be a much-needed agent of change.”

The NHS Race and Health Observatory, an independent body hosted by the NHS Confederation and supported by NHS England and NHS Improvement, will examine long-standing health inequalities affecting BME patients and communities, including maternity and neonatal outcomes, mental health, data and digital access to healthcare – as well as the immediate challenges of the impact of the pandemic. These are some of the initial themes the board will agree during its first meeting on 19 January.