NHS Workforce Disability Equality Standard

NHS Workforce Disability Equality Standard

What is the NHS Workforce Disability Equality Standard?

The NHS Workforce Disability Equality Standard (WDES) came into force on 1 April 2019 and is a set of specific measures (metrics) that will enable NHS organisations to compare the experiences of disabled and non-disabled staff. This information will then be used by organisations to develop a local action plan, and enable them to demonstrate progress against the indicators of disability equality.

Making a difference for disabled staff

The WDES is important, because research shows that a motivated, included and valued workforce helps to deliver high quality patient care, increased patient satisfaction and improved patient safety. The implementation of the WDES will enable NHS trusts and foundation trusts to better understand the experiences of their disabled staff. It will support positive change for existing employees, and enable a more inclusive environment for disabled people working in the NHS. Like the Workforce Race Equality Standard on which the WDES is in part modelled, it will also identify good practice and compare performance regionally and by type of trust.

WDES 2020 reporting and resources

The WDES 2020 reporting timeline runs from 6 July until 31 August 2020. Trusts are required to submit a WDES spreadsheet and WDES online reporting form. A suite of resources have been developed to prepare and support NHS trusts and foundation trusts with the implementation of the WDES.

The following resources were updated in July 2020:

  • the ten metrics - detailing the specifics of each metric which covers areas such as the board, recruitment, bullying and harassment, engagement and the voices of disabled staff
  • technical guidance - which provides details of the metrics, reporting and policy context
  • a quick guide to implementation - including key actions from preparation and reporting, to action planning and implementation
  • factsheet- providing key information on what the WDES is, why it has been created, who needs to report and the timetable

Additional guidance: 

  • an inclusive approach to disability leave- this briefing highlights the benefits of having a disability leave policy and shares good practice examples from other NHS trusts
  • a guide to improving staff disability data - tips to help employers improve their staff disability data by using the recruitment process, manager engagement and data collection more effectively
  • reasonable adjustments - guidance on how employers can support disabled staff in the workplace by making reasonable adjustments
  • FAQs - an online resource of more detailed questions and answers
  • reporting timetable (detailed at the bottom of this page)

WDES annual report 2019

The first WDES annual report was published in April 2020 by NHS England and NHS Improvement and provides the first national review of the NHS workforce that relates to the workplace representation and career experiences of disabled staff. 

At a national level, the evidence clearly highlights disparities between the experiences of Disabled and non-disabled staff across the ten metrics. The analysis therefore demonstrates the need for trusts to take robust action, with monitoring and evaluation, to ensure that progress takes place and to embed the WDES into ongoing work programmes that support positive change. 

To access the report, executive summary and easy-read version visit the NHS England and NHS Improvement website.

WDES share and learn webinars

Over the last year we have hosted jointly with NHS England a series of share and learn webinars to help provide further support with the implementation of the WDES. The webinar recordings can be accessed below.  

WDES reporting timetable 





NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts review their datasets, declaration rates and publish their WDES 2019 annual report.


6 July

The Strategic Data Collection Service (SDCS) will send an email to trusts with a link to their WDES spreadsheet.
The WDES team will send an email to trusts with a hyperlink to the WDES online reporting form.

31 August 2020

Submission deadline for completed WDES data returns:

  • The WDES spreadsheet via the SDCS.
  • The WDES online reporting form via the button at the end of the survey.
31 October 2020  Deadline for trusts to publish their WDES 2020 annual report on their website. The report should contain the metrics report and action plan.

Further information

Visit the NHS England website for additional information on the Workforce Disability Equality Standard or email england.wdes@nhs.net.

For guidance on the various types of employment related disabilities take a look at our disability confident and Learning Disability Employment Programme web pages.

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