The must-read stories and debate in health policy and leadership.

The NHS has a rare opportunity over the next 12 months to ensure far greater diversity in its top leadership roles, according to a group of senior leaders from minority ethnic backgrounds.

In a letter to NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens, 19 chairs and chief executives said he must ensure the executive officers appointed to the 42 emerging integrated care systems [not just non-executives] are representative of the ethnic diversity in their communities.

The Chairs and Chief Executives Ethnic Minority Network outlined some of the “shocking” health outcomes for minority ethnic patients over the last year, while highlighting the fact that just eight of 231 NHS provider trusts are led by minority ethnic chief executives.

Co-chairs Raj Jain and Patricia Miller, chief executives of Salford Royal Foundation Trust and Dorset County Hospital FT respectively, wrote: “Whilst we welcome the focus of the ICS consultation and the [government’s recent] white paper on reducing health inequalities, we also feel a deep sense of disappointment.

“If the NHS is going to deliver its newly stated aim, there will need to be recognition of and focus on all root causes of inequality, not simply the ones we feel comfortable to address.

“How can the NHS possibly deliver its ambition to reduce health inequalities across ethnic minority communities if the organisation itself fails to deliver equality internally for the people it employs?

“If NHS staff are to truly understand the communities they serve, understand their lived experience and how this in turn affects their life chances and health outcomes, they must first work within organisations that are not only diverse, but where diversity is welcomed, the benefits understood and there is strong evidence of equality, belonging and psychological safety.”

It said the recent report on the workforce race equality standard provided “clear evidence that very little progress has been made in terms of the creation of positive inclusive cultures” over the last 20 years, with “many areas” seeing performance deteriorate.

Driving the point home on parking

Car parking, more often than not, is a particularly very contentious issue for the NHS. This week the issue has reared its head again after NHS England sent a nudge to NHS trusts, reminding them that from April they are required to provide free parking to certain patient groups and staff working overnight.

The letter, HSJ understands, was prompted by concerns at the top that trusts would not fulfil their duty when it came to the parking requirement.

During the pandemic, despite the government saying that trusts should provide free parking for all staff, a number of trusts did not, according to several sources. University Hospitals Birmingham FT was one of the holdouts.

HSJ understands the funding provided by the government for staff parking was also allocated in overall covid-19 funding. This would have allowed trusts to use the funding for other purposes.

One barrier, sources have said, was that the funding, and the funding now going into baselines, was not enough to cover all charges.

If this is true some trusts may have a scramble to find the funds in time for April.