SoR CEO responds after health secretary criticises NHS diversity roles

Lack of access to healthcare based on race has moral and economic impacts, says society chief executive Richard Evans

Published: 26 October 2023 Campaigns

The CEO of the Society of Radiographers has responded to comments made by the health secretary criticising diversity roles within the NHS. 

In a letter addressed to the heads of integrated care boards the Secretary of State for Health, Steve Barclay, said he was concerned about NHS funds being used to recruit for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) positions, and urged managers to redirect resources into frontline patient care.

Out of touch

Mr Barclay’s comments have been met with criticism from various health organisations, including SoR.

In response to the letter, SoR CEO Richard Evans accused political leaders of being “out of touch,” and highlighted the health and economic benefits of focussing on diversity and inclusion. 

Mr Evans said: “Radiographers are already aware of how little the Secretary of State and his team are engaged with the fundamental challenges affecting the health of the population and the sustainability of the NHS. This news reinforces the impression of our political leadership being completely out of touch with the key factors behind the very health priorities that they themselves claim to champion.”

'Managers should justify roles'  

In the letter to health leaders, Mr Barclay said he is concerned that many local NHS organisations are actively recruiting into DEI roles, and highlighted the salaries listed alongside some of these job opportunities - “salaries of up to £96,376, which is above the basic full-time pay for a newly promoted consultant.” 

He also noted examples of NHS organisations subscribing to external parties to help improve DEI within the NHS. 

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 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.” 
Mr Barclay also highlighted cutbacks within the Department of Health and Social Care “focused on delivering efficiency.”

He said the department has reduced headcount by one in six, and has no standalone recruitment roles, in-part delivered through a recruitment freeze. 

Improving health

In his response, Mr Evans highlighted how diversity and inclusion can help with improving public health, reduce pressure on the NHS, and also help tackle attrition rates amongst the NHS workforce. 

Mr Evans said: “Lack of attention to diversity, equality, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) is a key factor restricting progress in tackling health inequalities. Poor access to healthcare on the basis of race is not only a moral scandal, but also has a significant economic impact through exacerbated sickness absence and inability to achieve early diagnosis.

“The government claims to be prioritising growth and retention of the NHS workforce. It should be clear that lack of leadership and advocacy in the sphere of DEIB is a contributory factor to workplace stress, challenged health and wellbeing and attrition from the precious NHS workforce.”