• Advert for chief nursing information officer removed after facing criticism for “limiting diversity of candidates”
  • NHSE has confirmed recruitment has been paused while the job advert is amended 
  • Candidates who have already applied for the role will still be considered, according to NHSE

NHSX has removed a job advert for a senior IT role after it was criticised for excluding people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

The new digital unit announced on Thursday it had paused the application process for a chief nursing information officer so the criteria could be reviewed “to ensure they fit with NHSX values”.

An NHS England spokesman confirmed the original job advert — which has been removed — stated hopeful candidates must have “proven and significant experience at director level”.

However, the advert was criticised on social media for “significantly limiting the diversity of potential candidates” as “very few BME people have reached director level”.

Responding to the job advert on Twitter, senior manager for the NHS workforce race equality standards team Owen Chinembiri said: “According to the [job description] NHSX wants someone with ‘proven and significant leadership experience at director level’ and ‘significant knowledge… in relation to digital health’.

“These two essential requirements significantly limit the diversity of potential candidates.”

In a separate tweet, he added: “If significant board level experience means more than three years, less than eight BME nurses in the NHS can apply for that job. Happy to be corrected.”

Director of digital development for NHSX Sam Shah also responded on Twitter, saying: “Especially when we consider the data that was presented recently this naturally means that the likely candidates from the NHS will be non-BAME, given that very few BAME people have reached director level.”

Recruitment paused

Recruitment for the role has been paused while the criteria is changed from “essential” to “desirable”, according to NHSE. Applications from candidates who have already applied for the role have been saved and will still be considered.

Chief clinical information officer for health and care Simon Eccles, responded to criticism on Twitter, saying: ”As you may have seen from the NHSX tweet — I have pulled the ad. We’ll rework it, helped by good advice, to ensure we are properly inclusive, as we originally intended.”

An NHSE spokesman added: “NHSX is committed to recruiting a team that is diverse in expertise, experience, background and reflective of the people it serves.

“Recruitment to this important new role has been briefly paused whilst we amend the job description to ensure we can attract as wide a range of candidates as possible.”

NHSX published a tweet with a link to the job advert on Tuesday, stating the CNIO would “lead the digital transformation of nursing in the NHS”, working with Dr Eccles and chief nursing officer for England, Ruth May.

The norm, not an afterthought

The Shuri Network — a network of BME women interested and working in health tech — was tagged by NHSX in the tweet.

Sarah Amani, co-founder of the network, said involving people of BME backgrounds in the recruitment processes within the NHS “should be the norm” rather than just “an afterthought”.

She said: “Thinking about diversity and embedding inclusion into recruitment is a cultural change. Words that we have heard about commitment to diversity have clearly not translated into behaviours.

“Involving people from diverse backgrounds at the point of designing the person specification and job adverts should be the norm, but it isn’t.

“Often it is an afterthought and this just perpetuates inequality.

“I would hope that when organisations are creating leadership jobs, they ask for help from members from networks like the Shuri Network early, rather than as an afterthought.

“We could save ourselves a lot of extra work if we made this the norm.”

NHSX, which was created by health and social care secretary Matt Hancock, officially launched in July. Its responsibilities include setting policy for NHS technology, digital and data, as well as streamlining communication methods across the healthcare system.

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The HSJ Digital Transformation Summit, taking place at the Crowne Plaza, Stratford-upon-Avon from 12-13 February 2020, unites 120+ senior leaders from across the provider, commissioning and STP landscape with those who have leveraged technology to drive tangible improvements across other industries, to discuss how to realise your digital visions in a cash-limited environment and scale up innovations to improve quality and outcomes for your local population.

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