New report reveals roadmap to attract, support and retain a diverse workforce in the NHS

Mon 08 Nov 2021

New report reveals roadmap to attract, support and retain a diverse workforce in the NHS

Nuffield Trust has published a research paper that examines the representation of under-served groups and provides a set of recommendations for becoming an exemplar of equality, diversity and inclusion

By Murielle Gonzalez

Nuffield Trust has published a research paper looking at how to attract, support, and retain a diverse NHS workforce. Authors Nina Hemmings, Helen Buckingham, Camille Oung, and William Palmer explained the moral and legal case to increase diversity and inclusivity in the NHS workforce and noted discrimination had been identified at every stage of the career pipeline, despite efforts to eradicate it.

Admittedly, the NHS's work would not be possible without the critical contribution of its staff — it employs nearly 1.5 million people in England alone, representing around 1-in-19 of the total workforce in the country. The make-up of the NHS workforce also covers a broad range of backgrounds and origins, from different genders, ethnicities, disabilities, and religions to sexual orientations, ages and other characteristics. However, the research launched to identify the scope for the NHS to become an even more inclusive, diverse and equitable workforce at every level.

The paper acknowledged that some groups are under-represented in certain NHS careers across various characteristics, including ethnicity, disability, gender, and religion. "For instance, men account for only 1-in-9 (12%) of the nursing and health visitor workforce, whereas women account for just over a third of medical consultants (38%)," reads the report.

The research findings suggest three conditions necessary to address these challenges — data, evidence-based solutions, and a combination of resources, skills and responsibilities.

The authors argued that data is crucial. There needs to be sufficient information and data to get around the nuanced understanding of challenges.

There's also the need for evidence-based solutions because clarity is needed on 'what works' to address specific challenges.

Equally, resources, skills and responsibilities are all required across organisations to implement and evaluate interventions.

Nuffield Trust says that the NHS should strive to act as an example of equality, diversity and inclusion. And it has made it clear that investment at the local, system, regional and national levels is required to make progress.

The paper concluded with five key recommendations to act on, including a call for taking stock on data and information systems to determine which would support a more detailed analysis of variation by sub-groups within the protected characteristics. The focus is on taking into account the effect of intersectionality.

In addition, the paper suggests the NHS report publicly on their estimated annual budget and full-time equivalent staffing levels specifically for improving equality and diversity.

The continuing professional development of NHS staff was put in the spotlight, with a recommendation for NHS trusts to ensure their equality, diversity and inclusion teams have access to programmes and are equipped with the skills, knowledge and leverage to support and challenge their organisations. The full report is available to download.

Join us on Thursday 17 February 2022 for Diversity, Inclusion and the Healthcare Workforce, an online event focused on attracting, supporting and retaining diverse talent. Expert speakers will guide you through the current landscape and provide you with the practical tools and insight needed to create your roadmap to a diverse, compassionate, inclusive place of work. Explore the agenda, and secure your place today.


Murielle Gonzalez, content strategy manager at Dods Diversity & Inclusion, is an experienced journalist and editor. She can be reached on

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