17.01.19

NHS must tackle ‘systemic racism’ as report shows staff discrimination on the rise

The NHS has been urged to tackle its “systemic racism” as new figures reveal that black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds remain “grossly underrepresented” and discrimination is on the rise.

The number of BME staff who reported experiencing discrimination in the last 12 months has risen to 15% according to data published by NHS England in a new workforce race quality standard report.

Reports of discrimination have increased from 13.6% in 2015, whilst in contrast 6% of white colleagues flagged up discrimination, and BME staff were found to be 1.24 times more likely to enter the formal disciplinary process compared to white staff, despite year-on-year improvements.

NHS England reported that whilst BME staff represent nearly a fifth of the NHS’s entire workforce, the number in top positions are proportionally much lower with 6.9% of very senior managers were found to be BME staff.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) called the rise in reported discrimination towards BME staff “truly appalling” and called for redoubled efforts to increase the number of BME leaders within the NHS.

Acting chief executive of the RCN Dame Donna Kinnair stated: “It is a disgrace that BME staff experience racism, lower pay, harassment and limited career progression within our health service.

“It is up to employers and policymakers, working with trade unions and other organisations, to put an end to this once and for all.

“NHS trusts need to engage their staff and bring them into the process of resolving issues of discrimination and systemic racism in their workplaces.”

She added: “A good start would be ensuring there are more BME voices at the top of the profession, yet despite modest gains highlighted since last year, minority voices remain grossly underrepresented in senior management positions.

“The government cannot hope to increase staffing levels without the NHS embracing diversity at every level and extinguishing the damaging effects of racism on our health service.”

Across the NHS’s 231 trusts in England, there were just eight BME executive directors of nursing although the net number of executive BME board members had increased by 11.

NHS England did report a sustained increase in black and minority nurses, health visitors and midwives and continuous improvement for many organisations across a range of indicators, but accepted that “much more work is still needed.”

Image credit - sturti

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