Breaking Through : About us

The NHS is the 4th biggest organisation in the world. 1.3 million people work in the service. The NHS has a budget of £90 billion and millions of people are treated and supported by the service every year.

14.75% of the workforce are from black & minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds, approximately 183,000 members of staff. Indeed without staff from BME background, the NHS would struggle to maintain services to the population.

In order to have a world class service that is fit for purpose, it is essential that the NHS utliises the skills of its entire staff. In an age where many companies and organisations are looking for the best talent the NHS needs to be seen as an organisation that values diversity seeking to ensure there are appropriate services for a multicultural population and equal opportunities for all its staff.

The National Breaking Through Top Talent Programme will be instrumental in ensuring the NHS reaches CEO David Nicholson’s challenge of many more top managers coming from BME backgrounds. The programme aims to identify, develop and support talented manager’s move to the next level of their career. This website provides you with information about the Breaking Through programme. This exciting and innovative programme will help inspire and motivate staff in the service and ensure the NHS harnesses the talents of staff from all disciplines and backgrounds.

In February 2006, the 50th anniversary of the NHS graduate training scheme the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement undertook a review of its leadership programmes; this included the Breaking Through programme. It was concluded that Breaking Through was highly valued by its participants; many believe that its very existence shows a belief in the ability of people from BME backgrounds to contribute to the NHS agenda.

The report also highlighted that views on BT are divided with some people believing it should continue in its current format though with accreditation, other believing that targeting BME people to learn and develop together does not enable cross cultural learning.

The board of the NHS Institute agreed with the recommendations made in the paper that the BT programme should be redesigned with the emphasis being on developing people capable of performing effectively at director level and working with leadership colleagues in the newly formed SHAs the remainder of the programme would be devolved and delivered locally. The aspiration is that in addition to boards being more representative, as a consequence more appropriate core commissioning occurs for populations

Therefore the aim of the newly designed Breaking Through is to act as a key enabler in ensuring that senior environments within NHS organisations are fairly representative of communities in England .


  • Develop BME senior managers that perform effectively at director level
  • Devolve the remainder of the programme to SHAs to be delivered locally
  • The development of:
    • a national strategy that is adopted locally 
    • strict mechanisms for measuring success, 
    • a robust mechanism that recognises high standards that are equitable to other areas
    • To be seen as on par with other building leadership capability programmes (gateway and MTS)
    • Be value for money 
    • Attract BME top talent from across the country 
    • Work closely with SHA Leadership and workforce leads 
    • Work collaboratively with DH and NHSE colleagues 
    • Be a leading brand for the development of BME people in the country 
    • Creating opportunities proactively for BME people.

    The following structure outlines the direction of travel for the programme:


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Latest Breaking Through Events

Thu, May 21st, @6:00pm - 08:00PM
Yorkshire and Humber Alumni event for the Building Leadership Capacity Schemes & Programmes