Care Quality Commission chief executive Cynthia Bower has promised not to go “wading in” to trusts that fail to comply with race equality duties.

Speaking at the Race for Health summit in London on Monday, Ms Bower said she wanted to improve race equality in the NHS by working with organisations before using the regulator’s new powers to close or fine services.

I think very few of us can look at our organisations and say we’re squeaky clean

She said: “If we come in very strongly straight away, the system will close down and try to keep information away from us. We have to look as if we want to be a partner in improvement.

“We have been given these powers. It’s incumbent on us to use them very carefully and not go wading in.”

She said she wanted to redress the imbalance between those delivering and receiving care, to ensure that relationships were characterised by dignity, respect and personalisation.

Work such as the mental health inpatient survey would help move the NHS in the right direction, she said, although she admitted the survey had been controversial.

As reported in HSJ, some trusts felt the survey glossed over the positive findings and did not adequately explain that response rates in some organisations were relatively low.

Ms Bower admitted she had her “wrists slapped” over the survey but said it had been “very powerful”.

She called for health service management to become more representative of its ethnically diverse workforce but said that it was not her job to achieve this.

She said: “It’s my job to look into my organisation. We can’t preach to other people unless we can look inside our own organisation and see it’s doing everything it’s meant to be doing.

“I think very few of us can look at our organisations and say we’re squeaky clean.”

Organisations represented at the summit each pledged to take a specific action to improve race equality, ranging from engaging patient networks to introducing diversity champions in the workplace.