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Record numbers of disabled staff in senior management roles in the NHS

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There are twice as many disabled senior members There are twice as many disabled senior members of staff in the NHS

The number of disabled staff in senior roles in England’s health service has more than doubled over the past three years, NHS England has announced.

The NHS Workforce Disability Equality Standard report for 2021 shows the proportion of disabled staff at very senior manager level has increased to 3.4% in 2021, from 2.8% in 2020, and 1.6% in 2019.Similarly, the proportion of Board members declaring a disability has increased from 2% in 2019 to 3.7% in 2021, matching the makeup of the wider workforce for the first time. More than 52,000 people in the NHS workforce (3.7%) declared a disability through the NHS Electronic Staff Record, an increase of 6,870 compared to 2020.

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‘It is encouraging to see the number of disabled people in senior management roles increasing each year, and almost four in five disabled staff believe they have equal opportunities for career progression and promotion,’ said Christine Rivers, Head of Workforce Disability Equality Standard (WDES) at NHS England.

‘We know that the NHS is at its best when it reflects the diversity of our country, at all levels, and how the NHS treats its staff has an impact on how it treats patients, so while the latest data shows promising progress in many areas over the past three years of the WDES, it also shines a light on areas where disparities between disabled and non-disabled staff continue to exist.’

The survey also shows that more than three quarters (76.6%) of disabled staff felt that their employer had made adequate adjustments to enable them to carry out their work, an increase of 2.8 percentage points from 2020, and almost all (97.2%) of trusts now actively facilitate the voices of disabled staff to be heard, up from 85% in 2019.

‘For our patients to get better care and outcomes, all our NHS people need to be treated fairly. The latest report shows an overall improvement in the experience of disabled colleagues working in the NHS, with almost four in five disabled staff believing they have equal opportunities for career progression and promotion. But there is always more we can do,’ said Em Wilkinson-Brice, Acting NHS Chief People Officer.

‘The findings detailed in this report will help to inform future strategic development of the WDES and the actions that will be taken in 2022. Initiatives like the WDES Innovation Fund continue to support NHS trusts and other NHS employing organisations to improve the experience and retention of disabled staff but we will continue to work tirelessly to ensure all staff are treated in accordance with our NHS values.’

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