Health Secretary tells NHS to stop recruiting specific diversity and inclusion roles

The Health Secretary has told NHS managers to stop recruiting for jobs focused solely on promoting diversity and inclusion.

In a letter to the heads of Integrated Care Boards – which manage local budgets – Steve Barclay said he is “concerned that many local NHS organisations are actively recruiting into dedicated DE&I (diversity, equity and inclusion) roles”.

He added: “Current live adverts include jobs with salaries of up to £96,376, which is above the basic full-time pay for a newly promoted consultant.”

Instead, Mr Barclay called for the cash to be spent on frontline care, with diversity and inclusion the responsibility of all staff in the NHS.

The letter, first published in the Daily Mail and dated October 19, said: “On March 24 2023, I wrote to the Department of Health and Social Care’s agencies and partner organisations setting out how we should ensure good value for money when it comes to improving diversity and inclusion (DE&I) across the health family.

“This included explaining that these issues are everyone’s responsibility and should be addressed through normal management processes rather than using external providers or dedicated roles within organisations.

“In the Department, we have been focused on delivering efficiency so that we can move resources from the back office to the frontline.

“This has included reducing headcount (FTE) by one in six, and we have no standalone diversity roles. Much of this efficiency has been delivered by applying a recruitment freeze.

“Other parts of the health family, including NHS England, are also making progress on this.”

He also expressed concern at the “continued use of subscriptions to external organisations on DE&I issues”.

Mr Barclay added: “I do not consider that this represents value for money, even more so at a time when budgets are under pressure as we work to tackle the backlog left by the pandemic…

“I would appreciate it if you could work with NHS organisations in your area to review with a view to ceasing recruitment into standalone DE&I roles and external subscriptions to redirect these resources into frontline patient care.

“Should organisations wish to take a different path then they should be willing to justify in public why such roles add more value than additional medical or healthcare staff.”

It comes after University Hospitals Birmingham advertised for a Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. The salary scale for the job was put at £83,571 to £96,376 a year.

The job spec said: “As our new Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, you will lead our ambition that equality and equity of access is a thread throughout all that we do.

“You will champion new ways of thinking, delivering services and hearing the voices of our people and local population to improve equitable, diverse and inclusive experiences for all.

“There is lots to do. Our Board, Executive team and Culture and Inclusion Board will work alongside you to effect change.”

University Hospitals Birmingham has been approached for comment.

Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive at NHS Providers, said: “Evidence repeatedly shows there are stark inequalities in healthcare that must be tackled.

“Equality, diversity, and inclusion can help create an NHS-wide culture where leaders feel equipped to deal with all forms of discrimination.

“The Government-commissioned Messenger review concluded that (DE&I) roles are vital and should be embedded at all levels of the health service to effectively tackle discrimination.

“Work to instil values and behaviours that help build a more equal, diverse and inclusive health service, which ensures fair treatment and opportunity for everyone, is essential.

“As the NHS faces over 125,000 workforce gaps, ensuring the psychological safety of staff is key to retention and recruitment, which ultimately benefits patient care and outcomes.”

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