The NHS will be assessed on whether people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds are represented on hospital boards, health officials have said.

NHS England has set out a new standard which requires the health service to demonstrate how it has progressed on measures of workforce equality, including how they are addressing the issue of low black and minority ethnic representation on boards.

The quality standard, which has been put out to consultation, could be used by health regulators to help assess whether organisations are well led, an NHS spokeswoman said.

The health authority is also considering whether or not to make an equality toolkit, which is currently voluntarily used across the NHS, mandatory.

The news comes after England's NHS boss said that there us a "lack of diversity" among NHS managers. NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said that it "cannot be right" that people from ethnic backgrounds are under-represented on NHS boards. In May he said that the leadership in the health service needs to "better mirror" the people that it serves.

Commenting on the new equality standard, Mr Stevens said: "We want an NHS 'of the people, by the people, for the people'. That's because care is far more likely to meet the needs of all the patients we're here to serve when NHS leadership is drawn from diverse communities across the country, and when all our front line staff are themselves free from discrimination."

Chris Hopson, chief executive of the Foundation Trust Network, added: "It is vital that boards reflect the diversity of local populations and the NHS workforce. We are keen to ensure that early progress is made on improving levels of BME representation at board level and in senior leadership positions across the NHS."