Workforce Disability Equality Standard (WDES)

The NHS Equality and Diversity Council (EDC) have taken another pivotal step to advance equality within the NHS.

The Council has recommended that a WDES should be mandated via the NHS Standard Contract in England from April 2018, with a preparatory year from 2017/18. NHS England has agreed to do so. The EDC has also agreed to support a programme of work to explain and support it.

The Equality Diversity Council considered the report published by Middlesex and Bedfordshire Universities on the ‘Experience of Disabled Staff in the NHS', alongside findings from research carried out by Disability Rights UK and NHS Employers ‘Different Choices, Different Voices', which found that disabled people had poorer experiences of working in the NHS in England than non-disabled colleagues.

Consultation on the proposed WDES has begun, alongside an extensive programme of communications and engagement to raise the profile of this initiative and to outline what support will be provided to organisations to deliver the change with disabled staff.

Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England and Co-Chair of the Equality and Diversity Council, said: “We’re committed to tackling inequality in the workplace wherever we find it. The new Workforce Disability Equality Standard will help the NHS fully realise the huge potential of all of our staff, and ensure their individual experiences contribute to improving care for patients.”

Joan Saddler, Co-Chair of the Equality and Diversity Council, said: “Initial learning from implementation of the Workforce Race Equality Standard tells us we have to take multi-faceted actions to tackle the real issues around persistent negative discrimination. Learning from the WRES approach must be integrated into the introduction of the WDES. Fundamentally, the WDES seeks to improve patient experience by ensuring organisations employ people with disabilities and view disability as an asset.”

Liz Sayce, Chief Executive of Disability Rights UK, said: “For the NHS, employing people with lived experience of disability or long-term health conditions is a major asset: these staff can draw on their own experiences to show understanding, empathy and role modelling to people using services. People who have recently acquired health conditions or injuries often feel discouraged, and meeting health professionals with their own lived experience makes a significant difference. The WDES should enable the NHS to increase its quality of service and to attract talent."

Ruth Passman, Head of Equality and Health Inequalities, NHS England, said: “This positive step forward for disabled people working in the NHS in England signals widespread recognition amongst NHS system leaders of the significant contribution that disabled staff make to workforce equality and to patient care.”

A guidance document is expected to be published in September 2017.