How improving DE&I among the health care workforce is an important component of ensuring health equity

Health equity is a top concern among health care leaders, and many recognise that their organisations must close gaps in health disparities by shifting the dial on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) in their own workforce. Our experience at McLean Public shows many health care leaders increasingly recognise the strong connection between diversity and inclusion within their workforce and improved health equity outcomes among patients. A diverse and inclusive health care workforce—both in clinical and nonclinical/corporate settings—can help improve trust and empathy and strengthen the connection with patients and communities. Here’s what else we are seeing through our networks:

We are seeing more health care leaders recognise that improving DE&I in the workforce can support quality of care and financial performance goals. However, it is evident there are still some who are way behind the curve and seeing a negative impact on their organisation as a result. Fully addressing racism and other biases can give all organisations a competitive advantage, helping them attract and retain the best talent and elevate their brand and reputation.

However, as highlighted in the NHS Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Improvement Plan there is still much more to do in the NHS before it can say inclusive environments are the norm. For example, women make up 77% of the NHS workforce but remain under-represented at senior level (however, 64% of my placements into the NHS at non-executive and executive level over the last 24 months have been female). Just over 24% of the workforce are Global Majority and still face discrimination across many aspects of their working lives. Data from the 2022 Workforce Race Equality Standard showed that 27.6% of Global Majority staff experienced bullying, harassment, or abuse from other staff in their preceding year. The NHS Staff Survey along with the Workforce Disability Equality Standard also shows that disabled staff in the NHS are under-represented when compared to the general population, even more so at senior level.

The NHS Staff Survey of March 2023 (one of the biggest staff surveys in the world) particularly highlighted the inequalities faced by LGBTQ+ staff. Of the respondents, 2.6% identified as gay or lesbian and 2% as bisexual, 5.9% reported they would prefer not to say, and 0.4% identified as transgender. This tells us at least one in every 20 NHS staff members is LGBTQ+. With approximately 1.3 million employees, this represents a significant amount of the workforce facing inequality.

As someone who identifies as neurodiverse – having been diagnosed in my early 40’s – I’m passionate about learning how organisations enhance not just their hiring process to ensure it’s as inclusive as possible, but also that there is a clear plan in place to ensure that individuals can thrive in the workplace. There is such a lack of understanding in organisations around neurodiversity, what it means and how to ensure there is the right level of support from hiring, onboarding and continued support throughout their tenure in post. Talking from experience, the lack of understanding pre-diagnosis seriously hampered my career at the time; yet now I understand, and am able to talk openly about it, has allowed me to work with it as opposed to against it.

We at McLean Public strongly believe inclusive and diverse leadership teams lead to better decision making by bringing challenge and perspectives from all elements of society. To ensure good governance and high-quality decision making at a senior level it is important that the executive team come from the widest possible talent pools, and that boards reflect and represent their patients, communities and stakeholders. It is also vital that different life experiences and perspectives inform board discussions and decisions. A diversity of ideas and perspectives leads to better decision making and therefore outcomes – in not just the health sector but beyond.


If you’re struggling to diversify your organisation’s workforce, please get in touch as this is something McLean Public can support you with.

Neal Mankey

Partner, Health and Social Impact



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