NHS Workforce Disability Equality Standard FAQs

Coloured question marks

In partnership with NHS England and NHS Improvement we have pulled together questions and answers relating to the NHS Workforce Disability Equality Standard (WDES).

The NHS Workforce Disability Equality Standard Factsheet covers all the need to know information on the WDES, the questions below provide additional information.

The metrics

Q. What is a metric?

A metric is a measure used for evaluation or analysis. The WDES metrics are based on workforce data, primarily drawn from the Electronic Staff Record (ESR), the NHS Staff Survey and local datasets.

Q. What are the ten WDES metrics?

Details of the ten metrics can be found in the WDES 2020 Metrics document.

Q. When did the WDES come into force?

The WDES was introduced in April 2019 and is mandated to all NHS trusts and foundation trusts. In 2020, the WDES is based on data from the 2019/20 financial year. The reporting table can be found on our WDES web page. The WDES does not apply to CCGs, the independent and voluntary sector providers in the first two years.

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

In 2020, trusts only need to complete data for metrics 1, 2, 3, 9b and 10 and these rely on data gathered from:

  • Electronic Staff Record (ESR) – metric 1 and 10
  • Recruitment datasets - metric 2
  • HR dataset – metric 3
  • Local datasets – metric 9b

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).

Trusts do not need to source data for metrics 4-9a as this information is provided to NHS England through the NHS Staff Survey 2019. However, trusts should review this data and compare with last year’s results as the trust is still required to publish data for all ten metrics within their board ratified WDES 2020 Annual Report.

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 2019 Annual Report.   

Stakeholder engagement

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

Disabled staff are central to the WDES, and should be involved in discussing the trust’s data, creating the action plans and be involved in implementing the actions themselves. The WDES has been developed and continues to be underpinned by the ethos of ‘nothing about us without us’. This means that any decisions that impact on disabled people, must involve disabled people. Metric 9b is specifically designed to provide the evidence that disabled staff are involved and participate in the WDES reporting. 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.  

Q. What is the role of trade unions/professional associations?

To successfully implement the WDES, it will be essential to engage with both staff and their recognised trade unions/professional associations. 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 do expect trusts to provide staff with opportunities to be involved in the WDES. 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 an inclusive environment that supports all 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 ensure they have local arrangements in place to support the data collection and reporting process, and can publish their WDES annual report. WDES has been assessed by NHS Digital and 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 between the local clinical commissioning group (CCG) and the trust.

The progress made by trusts in 2019/20 will be compared to 2018/19 data results as published in the WDES 2019 Annual Report. Trusts have been compared on a local, regional and national basis and by trust type and size. The baseline data and analysis can be used as a measuring tool to enable trusts to understand where progress has taken place and where improvements need to be made.  

Actions and outcomes

Q. What should my organisation do with the results?

Trusts will need to review their results, compare to 2018/19 and decide in conjunction with disabled staff, on actions that will address the areas of difference highlighted by the metrics. Trusts will be expected to publish their WDES Annual Report, which includes the metrics data and action plans on their websites by 31 October 2020.   

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.

It is a voluntary standard for national health bodies in 2020. As system leaders and in the spirit of transparency and continuous improvement, they will be expected to report and publish data against the WDES metrics.

Discussions will be taking place about the implementation of the WDES with CCGs and the independent sector later in 2020/21. 

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 trusts to proactively attract more disabled people into their workforce by introducing a guaranteed interview scheme. This could also be part of the trust’s commitment to Disability Confident. Trusts implementing Disability Confident 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 is also a clear signal that the trust is committed to recruiting disabled people.    

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

Discussions are taking place with the CQC, with a view to assessing the WDES as part of the well led domain, as is the situation with the NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES). 

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

The raw data submitted via SDCS will be collected by NHS England and NHS Improvement, which will use the data to undertake high level analysis. This analysis will be included in the WDES 2020 Annual Report. 

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.

Further information

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


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