Stevens: Much left to do as BME staff still more likely to be bullied at work

Staff from a BME background are still significantly more likely to experience discrimination at work from colleagues and their managers, NHS England’s second annual report into racial equality has shown.

The Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) report found that though progress was being made, there was still a lot of work to be done to ensure the NHS had an equal and diverse workforce across all levels.

Despite the number of BME nurses in bands 6-9 increasing by 4,187 between 2014 and 2016, it was revealed that BME workers were found to be more likely to experience bullying from co-workers, and were less likely to think their trust provided equal opportunities for career progression – although the gap between white and BME staff on this indicator fell from 14.5% in 2014 to 12.6% in 2015.

The report also warned that at executive board and VSM levels, BME representation remained significantly lower across the workforce and in the local communities served, despite the proportion of very senior managers from BME backgrounds increasing by 4.4% from 2015 to 2016.

And when it came to employment rates, the report found that white shortlisted job applicants were 1.57 times more likely to be appointed from shortlisting than BME applicants.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, argued it was positive that for the first time the organisation had a full national picture of how equality standards were having an effect and showing early signs of progress.

“But no one should be comfortable or satisfied with what these figures show overall,” Stevens warned, “and many employers still have much to do before the NHS can declare mission accomplished on this critical agenda.”

And Joan Saddler, co-chair of the NHS Equality and Diversity Council and associate director at the NHS Confederation, said: “This report is a timely tool for leaders and workers on the frontline grappling with how to deliver person-centred care in an increasingly complex environment.

“It is crucial to the success of the NHS that we listen to people using services and enable diverse teams to deliver services efficiently and compassionately.”

Saddler also stated that the evidence pointed to BME staff “suffering in silence” as they are absent at leadership levels or bullied disproportionately to the rest of the workforce.

“This is not acceptable and providers of NHS services and system partners need to improve in a planned and sustained way,” she concluded.

Jane Cummings, chief nursing officer for England and senior responsible officer for the WRES, also added: “I am pleased that some hospitals and trusts are making steady progress and ensuring black and minority ethnic nurses and midwives are not discriminated against and are equally appointed to senior banding grades.

“I am encouraged by the way in which NHS organisations are putting their minds to tackling the waste of talent that previous data has shown. There has been some marked improvement but more needs to be done.”

And NHS Providers director of strategy and policy, Saffron Cordery, who sits in the NHE Editorial Board, argued that though the report showed that progress is being made, more had to be done to make the NHS a better workforce for racial equality.

Diversity in the workforce is not only a moral obligation, but also leads to better productivity, better staff morale and in turn better care for patients and the public,” she said. “This report will help to ensure that race equality and diversity remain a key part of addressing the wider challenges faced by the NHS.”

Cordery also pressed health service leaders to use the report to make progress in the areas where the NHS is lagging behind in terms of equality and diversity.

“We are pleased that other parts of the health service are applying the WRES guidelines to their organisations and have published those findings,” she continued.

“Local organisations need support from national bodies to share this best practice and deliver solutions which benefit the whole service.”

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