The application process for England’s first ever chief nursing information officer has been “paused” due to concerns that the criteria for the post had frozen out black and minority ethnic candidates.
The advert, published this week by NHS England and NHS Improvement, had made board-level experience an “essential requirement” to apply for the job.
“Words that we have heard about commitment to diversity have clearly not translated into behaviours”
However, critics pointed out that having this requirement would limit the diversity of the applicants due to well-documented problems around BME nurses reaching director positions.
The announcement that recruitment for the role had been “paused” was made on social media site Twitter today by NHSX, the new teach unit at which the CNIO will be based.
Among those who raised concern about the job criteria was Sam Shah, director of digital development at NHSX.
Writing on Twitter, Dr Shah said it was “likely” that candidates would be non-BME, because there were “very few” BME directors in the NHS.
Nursing Times understands that the director experience requirement will now be moved from “essential” to “desirable” before the advert is reposted.
Sarah Amani helped set up the Shuri Network, the first forum established to represent women of colour in the fields of NHS digital health and technology.
NHSX announces suspension of CNIO recruitment process
Reacting to the announcement by NHSX, Ms Amani told Nursing Times:
“Thinking about diversity and embedding inclusion into recruitment is a cultural change.
“Words that we have heard about commitment to diversity have clearly not translated into behaviours,” she said.
“Involving people from diverse backgrounds at the point of designing the person specification and job adverts should be the norm, but it isn’t,” she said. “Often, it is an afterthought and this just perpetuates inequality.”
She called for organisations that were creating leaderships roles to engage with members from stakeholder groups, such as the Shuri Network, from the outset to avoid problems like this occurring.
Data from the most recent Workplace Race Equality Standard (WRES) report showed there were only eight BME executive directors of nursing across 231 NHS trusts in England in 2018.
While there are understood to have be more appointments since this count, the representation of BME nurses at board-level is still very low in comparison to the wider workforce and population as a whole.
“There are issues around women being under-represented both in senior nursing jobs and in tech”
Stuart Tuckwood, national nursing officer at union Unison, said:
“There’s a big problem with racism across the health service as our recent NHS staff survey showed.
“The NHS benefits hugely from an amazingly diverse workforce, yet all too often black staff are unfairly prevented from reaching leadership roles. This must be stopped.”
Alison Leary, professor of healthcare and workforce modelling at London Southbank University, expressed disappointment about the delay in recruitment to the CNIO role and said issues around gender equality also needed to be considered.
“This role is a way for a largely female and yet invisible workforce to have a voice,” she told Nursing Times. “Putting the role on hold means that voice is still not heard.”
“There are issues around women being under-represented both in senior nursing jobs and in tech.
“We need to support this role and importantly support the post holder to develop a pipeline to address all the issues around inequality.”
An NHSX spokesman said:
“NHSX is committed to recruiting a team that is diverse in expertise, experience, background and reflective of the people it serves.
“Recruitment to this important new role has been briefly paused whilst we amend the job description to ensure we can attract as wide a range of candidates as possible.”
The advert for the CNIO post went live at the beginning of this week, as reported by Nursing Times.
Applications already made to date would be kept and remain valid, NHSX confirmed.
Written by: Gemma Mitchell