NHS Employers, the employers body for the health service, is launching an action plan to make careers in medicine and dentistry more accessible.
Fourteen organisations have signed up to the action plan called Equal Values, Equal Outcomes. These include the Department of Health, the General Medical Council and the General Dental Council.
Action points include improving access to medical and dental education, opening up career opportunities, and developing disciplinary procedures that are open and equitable.
“People from a wide and diverse range of backgrounds should be given a chance to train as a doctor or dentist,” said NHS Employers head of equality and diversity Carol Baxter.
“This action plan is about building on work already begun to ensure they are given that chance and that all dentists and doctors are given equal career opportunities regardless of their religious beliefs, whether they are male or female, come from a minority ethnic background, are disabled or are gay, lesbian or bi-sexual.”
Baxter said a high proportion of NHS doctors and dentists come from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, but many do not reach the highest positions and there are concerns that disciplinary mechanisms discriminate against them.
“Students whose parents come from lower socio-economic groups are less likely to go to medical or dental school. More than half of dental and medical students are now women but access to flexible working for both male and female doctors and dentists still needs to be greatly improved,” said Baxter.
NHS Employers is setting up a small group of equality and diversity experts to objectively review progress against the action plan in a year’s time.