NHS Workforce Disability Equality Standard FAQS

Coloured question marks

The NHS Workforce Disability Equality Standard Factsheet covers the key questions on the WDES. The questions below provide additional information and guidance on specific aspects of the WDES. 

The metrics

Q. What is a metric?

A metric is a standard used for measurement or evaluation. The WDES metrics are based on workforce data, primarily drawn from the Electronic Staff Survey and the NHS Staff Survey.

Q. What are the ten WDES metrics?

Details of the ten metrics can be found in the WDES Metrics document.

Q. What date does the WDES take effect?

The WDES is mandated to all NHS trusts and foundation trusts from April 2019, based on data from the 2018/19 financial year. The reporting table can be found on our WDES web page. The WDES does not apply to independent and voluntary sector providers in the first two years.

Q. Where does my organisation find the data for each of the metrics?

NHS England will pre-populate an organisation-specific WDES excel spreadsheet, based on data from the Staff Survey and ESR. This will include pre-populated data for WDES metrics 1,4,5,6,7,8 and 9a. NHS organisations will need to pull off local workforce data from ESR, in order to check, amend or confirm their data using this spreadsheet. They will need to add data for metrics 2, 3 and 10, and then submit the spreadsheet using the Strategic Data Collection Service (SDCS).


A small amount of manual calculation may be necessary for calculating the numbers of very senior managers (VSM), senior medical managers (metric 1), and the dis-aggregation of board membership data (metric 10).

Q. What evidence does my organisation need to provide for metric 9b?

Organisations will need to outline how they have given voice to disabled staff, or the actions they plan to take. Examples could be the establishment of a disabled staff network, or a focused engagement exercise targeted specifically at disabled staff. It might be a communications campaign to increase the visibility of disabled staff in the organisation. More examples can be found in the WDES Technical Guidance which will be published shortly.  

Stakeholder engagement

Q. How will disabled staff be involved in the process?

Disabled staff are central to the WDES, and should be involved in discussing the data, creating the action plans and in implementing the actions themselves.  Metric 9b is specifically designed to centralise the importance of involving disabled staff in the WDES. There is no template or prescribed structure for how to do this, and individual organisations will need to discuss with their disabled staff how they wish to be involved. Examples of good practice will be collated and shared over the forthcoming months.

Q. What is the role of trade unions?

To succeed in successfully implementing the WDES, it will be essential to engage with both staff and their recognised trade unions. Organisations are more likely to successfully engage with staff and improve the impact of work, where the implementation of the WDES, and other equality initiatives such as EDS2, involve local social partnership with trade unions and staff organisations, to help draw on their knowledge, support and experience.

Q. What if my NHS organisation does not have a disability staff network – do we have to have one for the WDES?

A disabled staff network is not a requirement of the WDES. However we know that well-established and active disabled staff networks can play an incredibly valuable role in helping drive organisations forward and make quicker progress in creating environment that supports disabled staff.   

Organisational impact

Q. What additional resources will my organisation need for the WDES?

The collection and analysis of data on workforce disability equality should involve no more work than is currently expected in order to be compliant with national equality legislation. Trusts will need to check their datasets, and may need to put systems in place to ensure that the relevant data can be extracted and reported.  There will be some additional work involved in checking and adding data for the metrics, submitting the spreadsheet, discussing the metrics and formulating an action plan. The burden of the WDES has been assessed by NHS Digital and the WDES is a certified data collection.

Q. What consequences will there be for NHS trusts or foundation trusts that fail to report their data?

NHS organisations will be expected to adopt a strategy of closing the gap between disabled and non-disabled staff and taking steps to improve the experiences of disabled staff, in the interests of patients and their staff. Failing to demonstrate concrete steps taken to do so would not be adhering with the Public Sector Equality Duty or the Equality Act. Failure to do so will also be a breach of the NHS Standard Contract and should trigger robust discussions about how and why, and what steps will be taken to improve performance the following year.

The progress made by trusts will be published and, as with much other data, will be available nationally in a form that enables organisations to benchmark themselves. It is likely that as well as encouraging trusts to do better, to find buddying arrangements and good practice, a poor performance will trigger board level discussions.  

Actions and outcomes

Q. What should my organisation do with the results?

Organisations will need to review the results, and decide, in conjunction with disabled staff, on actions plans that will address the areas of difference highlighted by the metrics. Organisations will be expected to publish the action plans on their websites by 
1 August each year.

Q. Will the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) affect WDES submissions and reporting going forward?

GDPR does not materially affect submission, reporting and publication of WDES data. All information governance (IG) related queries should be discussed with your local Information Governance (IG) Team in the first instance.  


Q. Are there any plans to mandate other organisations such as independent NHS organisations to comply with the WDES?  

The WDES is mandated to NHS trusts and foundation trusts in the first two years of implementation. Discussions will be taking place about the implementation of the WDES with the independent sector during this time. The WDES is voluntary for arm’s length bodies. Engagement will be taking place with CCGs during 2019.

Q. What is the Guaranteed Interview Scheme?

A Guaranteed Interview Scheme is a commitment from an organisation that disabled people whose application meets the essential criteria for the post will progress straight to the interview/selection stage of the recruitment process.

Q. What does my organisation need to do if we are interested in introducing the Guaranteed Interview Scheme?

We would encourage any NHS organisations to proactively attract more disabled people into their workforce by introducing a guaranteed interview scheme. This could also be part of the organisation’s commitment to the Disability Confident accreditation. Organisations implementing the scheme should include the Guaranteed Interview Scheme in their recruitment policies, and ensure that disabled people progress to interview if they meet the essential criteria for the post.  Advertising the Guaranteed Interview Scheme on the trust’s website would also mean that disabled people know that the trust operates the scheme.   

Q. Will the CQC be assessing the WDES in relation to the well led domain?

Discussions will be taking place with the CQC, with a view to assessing the WDES as part of the well led domain, as with the WRES. Until this is agreed, the CQC will not be formally considering the WDES as part of its assessment of NHS organisations.

Q. What does NHS England do with the data my organisation submits?

The raw data submitted to NHS England through the SDCS will be returned to NHS England, which will use the data to undertake high level analysis. This will be included in the WDES annual reports.

Q. How does the WDES complement the NHS Constitution?

The NHS is founded on a core set of principles and values that bind together the diverse communities and people it serves – the patients and public – as well as the staff who work in it. The NHS Constitution establishes those principles and values across the NHS. It sets out the rights, to which all patients, communities and staff are entitled to, and the pledges and responsibilities which the NHS is committed to achieve in ensuring that the NHS operates fairly and effectively. Working for disability equality is rooted in the fundamental values, pledges and responsibilities of the NHS Constitution.

Q. What are the links between the WDES and the Equality Delivery System – EDS2?

The Equality Act 2010 ascribes protection to nine characteristics. The nine characteristics are: age; disability; gender re-assignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race (including nationality and ethnic origin); religion or belief; sex; sexual orientation. The Equality Delivery System (EDS2) is designed to help local NHS organisations, in discussion with local stakeholders, review and improve their performance for patients, communities and staff in respect to all characteristics protected by the Equality Act 2010.

The WDES seeks to tackle one particular aspect of equality – the experiences of disabled staff within the workforce. The WDES and EDS2 are complementary but distinct. The metrics used in the WDES, and the progress made in closing them, will assist organisations in implementing the EDS2.

EDS2 is currently being reviewed. Further information about EDS3 will be published in due course. 


Further information

Should you have any further questions please email england.wdes@nhs.net. 


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