Why diversity matters - improving patient outcomes through inclusion

23 October 2017


Intuitively everyone knows that diversity makes sense and there is lots of evidence and a number of studies that show organisations with diverse boards perform better than those that don’t. Where healthcare is concerned, we are now too diverse a nation for a one size fits all approach and each organisation needs to know and understand it’s own local population. To properly serve that population it’s essential to understand that community and to give it a voice at every level.

Whilst the current NHS workforce is probably pretty representative of the general population that it seeks to serve, it is not the case at the top of the organisation either nationally or locally. Whilst there has been good progress in getting more women in senior roles and on trust boards, the same cannot be said for ethnic minorities. The population of the UK continues to change with the latest stats showing that the UK has become more racially diverse than ever before. In 2016, whilst 18% of the non-medical NHS workforce were from an ethnic minority group, only 7% of executives and 11% of senior managers were from those same groups.  And when we talk about diversity we mean not only gender and race but also social mobility, an issue organisations are only just beginning to work out how to tackle. Creating an atmosphere of inclusion, that is driven from the top and percolates throughout an organisation, will inevitably lead to changes and ways of operating that benefit the community as a whole. Investing in a diverse NHS workforce will deliver a more inclusive service and improve patient care.

But how do we do that?

It’s not an accident that we are starting to see more and more women in senior positions. This is the result of a specific campaign with deliberate actions and interventions that has taken place over a number of years. But more needs to be done so that people from ethnic minorities and from different backgrounds can also find their way to the top. The talent pool is there but we need to find new and innovative ways to access it. It is not sufficient simply to attract individuals with high potential. We need  systematic attraction, identification, development, engagement, retention and deployment of those individuals who are of particular value to an organisation, either in view of their 'high potential' for the future or because they are fulfilling business/operation-critical roles. Developing, managing and retaining those individuals as part of a planned strategy for talent is key as well as adopting systems to measure the return on this investment.

From my experience of being on boards, I believe that the greatest strength is in our  differences not our similarities. The most effective boards I have been on are those that act on four critical areas: leadership, collaboration, teamwork and diversity.  

We know that change is driven by leaders. Through our NEDs programme we are seeking to equip leaders with the skills to make transformation happen. Diversity is a key element of driving that transformation and ensuring that NHS services truly reflect their local communities. If you want to learn more then it would be great for you to attend the following event:

Healthy boards, talent and diversity

Guest speakers Lord Victor Adebowale CBE and Candy Morris CBE

Monday 30th October

10am - 1pm

PwC, Embankment Place, London WC2N 6RH

To register please email [email protected]

Find out about our NHS Non-Executive Director programme of events.  

Karen Finlayson | Partner
Profile Email | +44 (0)1132894167

@karenmfinlayson | Linkedin Profile