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Record numbers of disabled staff in senior management roles in the NHS

The number of disabled staff in senior roles in England’s health service has more than doubled over the past three years, helping the NHS better meet the needs of patients. The NHS Workforce Disability Equality Standard report for 2021, published today – during Equality, Diversity and Human Rights Week – shows the proportion of disabled staff at very senior manager level has increased to 3.4% in 2021, from 2.8% in 2020, and 1.6% in 2019.

Similarly, the proportion of Board members declaring a disability has increased from 2% in 2019 to 3.7% in 2021, matching the makeup of the wider workforce for the first time.

More than 52,000 people in the NHS workforce (3.7%) declared a disability through the NHS Electronic Staff Record, an increase of 6,870 compared to 2020.

It also shows that more than three quarters (76.6%) of disabled staff felt that their employer had made adequate adjustments to enable them to carry out their work, an increase of 2.8 percentage points from 2020, and almost all (97.2%) of trusts now actively facilitate the voices of disabled staff to be heard, up from 85% in 2019.

The Workforce Disability Equality Standard was established as part of the NHS Long Term Plan’s aim of improving care for patients by making the NHS one of the best places to work, attracting and retaining talent and better reflecting the communities it serves.

As part of the work NHS England has been proactively engaging with staff, including the Disabled NHS Directors’ network, to increase the visibility of disabled leaders and to encourage disability declaration rates in the NHS.

The WDES is the only example of an employer mandated standard for disabled staff in the UK.

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