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Logo of bmjThis ArticleThe BMJ
BMJ. 2007 October 20; 335(7624): 795.
PMCID: PMC2034717

NHS launches scheme to encourage diversity in top management posts

A new scheme to spot talented black and minority ethnic workers in the NHS and give them the opportunity to work at director level for 18 months was launched this week.

The “national breaking through top talent programme,” part of the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement, aims to develop senior black and minority ethnic staff and help them break through the glass ceiling.

There are 193 000 NHS employees from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, but less than 2% work at an executive director level or higher.

Cynthia Bower, chief executive of West Midlands Strategic Health Authority, told the Breaking Through Conference, held in London on 15 October, “Only four chief executives come from a black and minority ethnic background and only 50 directors, which shows that we still have some way to go. For too long this has been the forgotten aspect of the NHS reforms.”

Yvonne Coghill, programme leader, said, “Unless we have boards that fully reflect the population that we are serving we are not doing justice to our patients.” She added, “There are too few black and ethnic minority people in senior positions, and that has got to change. The top talent programme will help make that change.”

The scheme is aimed at all senior managers, including clinical staff. Ms Coghill added, “We are also planning a programme specifically for BME [black and minority ethnic] doctors to develop their managerial skills.”

Selection for the top talent programme will include an online test and assessment at a development centre. Successful candidates will then have the opportunity to work at director level in an NHS organisation for 18 months. This post will be funded half by the NHS institute and half by the NHS organisation itself. During this time the participant will receive coaching and mentoring and at the end will be given help to find a substantive post.

Ms Coghill told the BMJ, “We are basically taking the crème de la crème and giving them support and mentoring. If at the end of this programme they still can't get a substantive post at director level then we need to ask serious questions of the NHS.”

She said she didn't know how many people would apply but if there were too many successful applicants and a position could not be found straight away then it would be offered at a later date.

The original “breaking through programme” was launched in 2003 and has helped 450 people develop their career. Since its launch the number of black and minority ethnic staff at executive director level or higher has not appreciably increased, however. The new programme is open only to NHS employees at grade 8 or above.


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