NHS Digital has pledged to improve its diversity across all levels of the organisation by 2025.

NHS Digital employs around 3,500 people across England and it is aiming for 19% of its staff to be black, Asian or from ethnic minority groups within the next four years. The organisation also set ambitions for 14% of its staff to be disabled and 50% to be female by 2025.

Currently around one in five NHS employees are black, Asian or from a minority ethnic group – NHS Digital has committed for its staff to have the same diversity at all levels of the organisation.

Simon Bolton, interim chief executive at NHS Digital, said: “Having a more diverse workforce is only part of the solution, and we need to work to make NHS Digital a truly inclusive environment.

“This starts with strong leadership and I am unapologetic in setting these expectations of the leadership community in NHS Digital, my executive team and myself as CEO.

“We are focused on building a workforce that better represents our customers, health and care staff and the communities we serve. We know that this will help us to develop and deliver better products and services, and ultimately enable improved healthcare outcomes.”

Shera Chok, co-founder of the Shuri Network, said it was a “powerful” move from the organisation.

The Shuri Network aims to champion and support black, Asian and ethnic minority women in technology roles in the NHS.

“We are delighted to see the strong commitment from the NHS Digital board and that the CEO, Simon Bolton has made it clear that this is a priority for the organisation,” Chok told Digital Health News.

“What is also encouraging is that he intends to hold each of his executive team directly to account for collectively achieving these goals, and that they make tangible commitments about the actions they will personally take.

“This is powerful statement from NHS Digital’s new CEO and will hopefully lead to changes in culture and behaviour. We need to improve diverse representation at senior levels and as the largest employer of informatics staff in the NHS it’s good to see NHS Digital lead the way.”

Chok added the Shuri Network would be working with NHS Digital on progressing the aims.

To encourage greater diversity within its workforce NHS Digital will:

  • Better understand and improve the experience of existing staff from under-represented groups
  • Offer positive action development opportunities for under-represented staff
  • Improve internal and external recruitment processes
  • Widen outreach and engagement to promote NHS Digital as an inclusive employer
  • Focus on diversity among employees joining the organisation as graduates, apprentices and school leavers

Bolton added: “Setting workforce representation targets is a symbol of our, and my personal, serious intent to make a difference. It certainly is not a quick fix; however it is a visible and public acknowledgement of our current position and acceptance to be held to account.

“It signals our commitment to work much harder to retain and develop our existing diverse talent and to do things differently to engage and attract colleagues from all backgrounds. This is particularly important in our senior leadership roles where we know we need to do better.”