Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust – Spotlight on Innovative Approach to Diversity and Inclusion

Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust is a National Health Service trust that provides a wide range of health and social care services.

The organisation’s 4,000 staff members work in many different settings and offer services to people living in south east London, parts of Kent, and in prisons in south west England.


Oxleas NHS introduced a new Shadow Executive—a group tasked with bringing a fresh perspective to executive decision making. Representatives from a wide cross section applied and were selected to join this body. 

Special focus was placed on gaining representation from people who reflected the organisation’s local communities (such as the travelling community), those with disabilities, and those with experience of serious mental health issues. Additionally, the Shadow Executive members included representatives from various backgrounds, cultures, heritages, and other demographic groups. 

Innovative actions 

The Shadow Executive has fixed term limits of 12 months, with the Shadow Executive receiving the papers that are to be considered by the formal executive. Each month, there is a Shadow Executive meeting whose conclusions are fed back to the Trust CEO and at least two key directors. These ideas are fed into the executive decision making and captured in the minutes.

Evidence of impact

Shadow Executive members have developed skills in chairing effectively, understanding finance, and receiving media training. They have gained insight into the challenges of senior leadership and built excellent relationships with the CEO and board members. Their feedback has been used to improve the plans being developed by the executive team.

Involvement in the Shadow Executive has helped some to re-evaluate their career options. Many have gone on to more challenging or senior roles as a result. 

The Shadow Executive has been sought out as a sounding board when the organisation is developing new thinking. Those who have met with the Shadow Executive repeatedly call it an uplifting and energising experience. 

The information contained within this resource was accurate at the time of its publication. This article was created in January 2023. 

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