HSJ is right to highlight the challenges in getting more staff from black and minority backgrounds into senior management positions. We at the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement recognise this and are far from complacent about what the data shows us.

We have recently reviewed our Breaking Through programme and have developed the Top Talent programme, which is designed to help BME staff gain the skills and confidence to succeed in the application process and to provide them with real experience in director-level positions. We also know that strategic health authorities and local NHS organisations are aware of the issues and are trying to develop strategies to address them.

There are no quick-fix solutions; this requires a long-term strategy to see the benefits coming through.

The signs from the NHS graduate management training scheme are encouraging. Over the last three years there has been an increase in applications from graduates with BME backgrounds from 16 to 21 per cent.

We clearly still have a way to go. However, there are signs that we're making progress.

Paul Allen, director of leadership development, NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement

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