The NHS Commissioning Board has been told to consider diversity as important as experience when determining who gets management jobs. This comes amid new evidence of its failure to recruit staff from diverse backgrounds.

People from non-white backgrounds made up 33 per cent of applicants for commissioning board posts who disclosed their background. However, they only constituted 8 per cent of those applicants appointed, according to an equality profile released on Tuesday.

Of those who have got commissioning board posts and revealed their background, 92 per cent were white, 53 per cent were in their 40s and 51 per cent were male.

In comparison, of the applicants who revealed their background, just 67 per cent were white, 34 per cent were in their 40s and 52 per cent male.

A similar trend is seen with “very senior manager” posts. Sixteen per cent of applicants were non-white but only 4 per cent of appointees came from a non-white background.

At a commissioning board meeting earlier this month, human resources director Jo-Anne Wass said: “Managers have been asked to ensure they have diverse panels and to weigh experience, technical expertise, values and diversity equally when making a decision on recruitment.”

Ms Wass said the picture had improved since September, when just 3 per cent of appointments were from a minority ethnic background despite them making up 12 per cent of applicants.

“I’m under no illusions there is a lot to do on this,” she said.

Around 1,700 jobs at the commissioning board had been filled by 7 November, with another 1,200 needing to be filled by March next year.

Approximately 70 per cent will be filled through matching posts with existing staff from strategic health authorities and primary care trusts. The other 30 per cent will involve standard recruitment processes.

NHS Employers director Dean Royles said: “We have seen much good progress in improving equality and diversity in the health service. This can be lost during significant organisational change, and can be hugely frustrating and shocking for those people affected.

“It’s really important that we constantly check and evaluate our practices and processes to make sure they are adjusted where feedback tells us that something is wrong.”