AHSNs back new drive to increase diversity in NHS leadership

21 March 2019


The Innovation Agency is backing a new network for NHS leaders from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

Launched by the NHS Confederation, the BME Leadership Network will work with national and front-line leaders to increase diversity and inclusivity in the NHS.

The Innovation Agency and several other Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) will be sponsoring events and supporting other key activities such as publications and engagement with leaders locally and nationally.

Chair Gideon Ben-Tovim said: “It is important that we take responsibility for being as inclusive as possible in our work and this means supporting diversity in leadership, whether on a hospital ward or health centre or in the boardroom. We must reflect the diversity of our communities in order to serve them well.”

As an academic, Gideon specialised in diversity and race relations; he has written and published many articles and books on the subject and has led a number of national and regional initiatives to increase diversity in the NHS.

The new network will be a prominent voice on equality, diversity and inclusion and will publish a range of reports and other activities. The first report, to be published in April, will examine falling diversity among chair and non-executive roles on the Boards of NHS organisations.

The network was launched with keynote speeches from NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens;  Professor Dame Donna Kinnair, acting chief executive and general secretary at the Royal College of Nursing; and Professor Dame Elizabeth Anionwu, Emeritus Professor of Nursing at the University of West London.

NHS Confederation chief executive Niall Dickson said: “Diversity in leadership is not an optional extra, it is essential for the future of the NHS.  Despite various pledges, there are already signs that the NHS is struggling to meet its equality and diversity ambitions.

“For too long we have had fine rhetoric but too little action – and it has to start at the top. That is what the BME Leadership Network will set out to deliver.

“The goals of the Long Term Plan will not be achieved without significant progress in equality, diversity and inclusion, both in the treatment of patients and of our staff. It is of course about fairness, but it is also about good governance and improving the quality of patient care and staff engagement.” 
The network will meet three times a year and will be co-chaired by Danielle Oum, Chair of Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust and Ifti Majid, Chief Executive of Derbyshire Healthcare.
It will offer opportunity and space for BME leaders, including chief executives and non-executives to come together to:

  • Improve understanding of equality, diversity and inclusion and publish the benefits to help deliver better care for all
  • Improve and sustain the number of BME leaders working in the NHS
  • Profile the diverse range of BME leaders delivering solutions across the health and care system.

Anyone who would like to find out more and to get involved in the network should email Joan Saddler, associate director at the NHS Confederation and co-chair of the NHS Equality and Diversity Council, at

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