The NHS Leadership Academy’s Tracie Jolliff on how BME healthcare leaders can best be supported to deliver the major challenges ahead

It’s time for a paradigm shift to take place on inclusion; we want to move beyond quantitative responses and empower leaders to make different collective and individual choices in their leadership practice than they have in the past.

Our challenges are significant and deep rooted. We’re working in an incredibly unbalanced playing field, with factors such as access to power and resources and social and cultural capital disproportionately biased. Add to that the challenges presented by the Five Year Forward View and it’s quite a ship to turn.

But although in the most part there’s a willingness to act, there’s also bewilderment as to what to do. The aim is that the BME roundtable will set the scene for real, tangible action.

We need to ensure that leaders understand how to use their power to bring about much needed transformation. I hope that as a collective, the roundtable can bring about change which includes a vision we can all engage with and embrace.

Open to the challenge

We also need inclusion to run as a common thread throughout our organisations - and indeed the whole system - rather than being viewed in isolation. It can’t be confined to one person or one policy. To make this the norm, our aim is to support every leader to do two things:

  • Be open to taking on this challenge and driving the agenda, seeing it as part of their set of responsibilities
  • Develop the skills to deliver real, targeted steps towards improved approaches

This should enable richer and more relevant engagement across a range of stakeholders so that more creative solutions will emerge.

There’s a need for organisations to embrace the difficult conversations we all need to have; to make changes to the conversations we have in the future. One of the ways we’re doing this is by looking at the content of our programmes. You can’t pass our assessed programmes without demonstrating that:

  • You’ve progressed in your understanding of what leadership for inclusion is
  • You have put this knowledge into practice

The NHS Leadership Academy is happy to share its approach to inclusion for organisations who want to adopt best practice. For more information, contact

Tracie Jolliff is head of inclusion and systems leadership at the NHS Leadership Academy

Roundtable: It's time for action, not words, on BME career progression