Published: 01/04/2004, Volume II4, No. 5899 Page 37

A story was told at a conference recently about a middle manager with excellent qualifications and experience who had failed to move into senior management despite attending a staggering 17 interviews.The most shocking part of this story is that it is not an unusual experience among black and ethnic minority NHS managers.

The Leadership Centre's Breaking Through programme runs two-day courses for BME 'aspiring directors and senior leaders' in the NHS to explore how they can overcome barriers in their careers.

The Breaking Through team also advises the NHS equality and diversity team on developing access to senior roles. It is handling the chief executive mentoring scheme, personally championed by Sir Nigel Crisp (who is currently mentoring a 'middle manager'nurse).Sir Nigel has said he hopes to see 500 chief executives mentoring managers from black and ethnic minority backgrounds by the end of the year.

'As Commission for Racial Equality chair Trevor Phillips said, when you look at the evidence in the NHS, you get black and white people progressing up to a certain point, [after which] it becomes snowcapped, ' says Sir Nigel.

'He says this is quite often about the 'soft skills'- about people being confident in themselves.

'Our targeting mentoring approach is to help people see how senior managers behave.'

The programme is recruiting for its next intake.See www. modern. nhs. uk