Leadership and diversity and inclusion roles come under fire in NHS report

A new report criticises the quality of leadership in the NHS, including the value of diversity and inclusion roles

Leadership roles, including diversity and inclusion jobs, are facing the axe, according to a new NHS report backed by Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid.

In a recent Cabinet speech, Javid suggested that the NHS was outdated and required innovation to meet users’ current needs, calling it a “Blockbuster healthcare system in the age of Netflix”. To achieve this, and in support of the NHS report, Javid calls for fewer diversity and inclusion roles in the NHS and more staff to work in positions that focus on “patients’ priorities”, as waiting lists have been on the rise since the pandemic.

The milestone NHS report outlines plans for the “largest shake-up of management in a generation” to improve leadership quality and curb spending against an environment of “waste and wokery.”

The report by General Sir Gordon Messenger and Dame Linda Pollard, Chair of Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust, details organisational failings in the NHS, including “institutional inadequacy” in leadership and management training and development. Also uncovered were “poor behaviours and attitudes such as discrimination, bullying and blame cultures”, with some staff not able to speak out, suggesting a lack of psychological safety and belonging for staff as well as seemingly ineffective leadership.

Sir Gordon will lead the eight-month inquiry into the health and social care leadership. The report calls for new management standards to be implemented, including mandatory training for anyone advancing into senior roles. Headhunting and new recruitment incentives will also be implemented to attract the best talent.

While the report’s calls for improving leadership quality are admirable and crucial for better patient care, the NHS risks losing diverse talent should the number of diversity and inclusion roles be axed, including the significant number of women and ethnic minorities employed in such roles. Their absence could also increase the risk of workplace inequality.

Furthermore, ethnic minority health and care staff are already losing out on career progression opportunities in the NHS, so any new management standards, including training for senior roles, should keep these ethnic minority staff in mind and ensure a fair quota is included.

Javid said: “The findings in this report are stark; it shows examples of great leadership but also where we need to urgently improve. We must only accept the highest standards in health and care – culture and leadership can be the difference between life and death.

“In my view, there are already too many working in roles focused solely on diversity and inclusion, and at a time when our constituents are facing real pressures around the cost of living, we must spend every penny on patients’ priorities.

“As this report sets out, it should be the responsibility of everyone to encourage fairness and equality of opportunity, which is why we must reduce the number of these roles.

“I fully support these recommendations for the biggest shake-up of leadership in decades.”

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