Racism in the NHS ‘bubbling away in the background’

Racial discrimination and bullying in the NHS has been exposed for the first time by a new report, published by NHS England, which highlights how the issue has been “bubbling away in the background”.

The NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES), providing the first comprehensive data for all trusts in the UK, found that at 75% of all acute trusts black and minority ethnic (BME) staff reported higher rates of bullying, harassment and abuse from colleagues than white staff.

There were similar complaints at 50% of ambulance trusts, 78% of mental health and learning disability trusts, and 65% of community trusts.

Tracie Joliff, head of inclusion and systems leadership at the NHS Leadership Academy, said: “This is something which has always been bubbling away in the background but it really needs to be brought to the forefront with purposeful leadership actions to change the culture of the NHS so that all staff are appreciated and valued.

“How do we then expect people who may feel undervalued to deliver care when in fact; they are not being cared for themselves?”

At 81% of acute trusts, a higher proportion of BME staff than white staff said they had personally experienced discrimination from their supervisor or colleagues, and there were similar results at 80% of ambulance trusts, 87% of community trusts and 73% of mental health and learning disability trusts.

The WRES also found a higher proportion of BME staff experiencing harassment, bullying and abuse from patients and the public at 44% of acute trusts, 60% of ambulance trusts, 65% of community trusts and 80% of mental health and learning disability trusts.

The majority of BME staff also said that they did not believe their organisation offered equal career progressions for BME and white staff at 86% of acute trusts, 50% of ambulance trusts, 80% of mental health and learning disability trusts and a shocking 100% of community trusts.

Joliff added: “The NHS must now take swift action to develop leaders who can understand these problems and are able to act to address them as a matter of urgency.

“Leaders may need development support to ensure that they are equipped to make the necessary changes. What is clear is, capable effective leadership is critical to help make the transformation which is so badly needed.”

NHS England is investing £2m in 2015-17 in the WRES programme to identify and share best practice building on improving recruitment and board membership of BME staff and reducing bullying and harassment. This includes training and developing 75 champions to help spread best practice and improve patient care within their trusts.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England and co-chair of the NHS equality and diversity council, said: “This report provides unvarnished feedback to every hospital and trust across the NHS about the experiences of their BME staff. It confirms that while some employers have got it right, for many others these staff survey results are both deeply concerning and a clear call to action.

“As this is the first year of the WRES, it provides a transparent baseline from which each employer will now be seeking to improve.”

A 2014 report, ‘The ‘Snowy white peaks’ of the NHS’ found that just 5.8% of NHS trust members are from BME backgrounds, prompting NHS leader Simon Stevens to call for greater diversity.

A recent Royal College of Midwives investigation also raised discrimination concerns after it found that BME midwives in London are disproportionately more likely to face disciplinary action than their white colleagues.

The 2015 NHS staff survey highlighted wider concerns about bullying in the NHS, with 13% of staff reporting harassment or bullying from their manager and 18% experiencing it from colleagues.

(Image c. Royal College of Midwives)

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Unhappyoxleasemployee   04/06/2016 at 13:08

I work for a trust in se London and all I can say is ain't this the truth. Open racism and bullying on a daily basis. BME staff constantly overlooked for promotion or opportunities to advance their careers. Managers colluding with white fellow white colleagues in the workplace, undermining their BME staff decisions and belittling them. The NHS has known for many years about this institutional racism, but yet every now and then another report is publish stating the same racism issues over and over again??When is the NHS going to actually do something??I suspect never!!

Muna   06/06/2016 at 21:48

I also work for the above trust- and totally agree that the racism in Oxleas in rife. I am a health Visitor and it's incredible how these people get away with their bullying and racist tactics. The way that black staff are treated is a disgrace. I have seen first hand colleagues less qualified being pushed up the career ladder quicker than I can blink, whilst black staff are not even able to get on to a course as the caseload is too busy. Managers know of racism, and have directly been told but do nothing about it, but victimise BME staff. It is really unacceptable behaviour. This is 2016- not 1916. All I can say is, if you are black or ethnic minority do not enter the NHS and definitely not Oxleas. Both have a reputation for institutional racism that goes back for far too many years. You will not have you effort and hard work acknowledged. So why waste your time when you can earn more money and far more respect in so many other professions. I sincerely regret ever entering and wasting my education on a career with the NHS.

Szhiv   21/01/2017 at 11:08

Racism is rampant in the NHS and even medical school. Just met a medical student from Srilanka who is facing this. Have faced it myself, applied for a management job 3 times and everytime a white member, a more junior and less experienced has been appointed. EVERYONE KNOWS, BUT NONE CARE All complaints are brushed under the carpet or those complaining are subtly threatened. There is never an impartial enquiry, those who are bullying are those who sit on the panel.

Ray   14/04/2017 at 17:17

Just as bad if you are a patient God help you if you are seriously​ I'll .Have been kept waiting for ages in empty appointment rooms refused x rays ,always asked if i am working even after retirement , medication stopped ect ect, it's all going to come back on them though,mark my words,when minority s start leaving and people are waiting for serious life threatening operations and can't get them

Lesley   14/05/2017 at 01:42

I faced racism throughout my three years of nursing training, especially on wards. I found that simply reporting it ensured that I was made to be the enemy and the one causing trouble. I was moved from placement to placement for simply raising serious concerns of racism across one particular trust. There simply is not enough training for equality and diversity, or cautions for those who feel to discriminate and express racial abuse. Currently, I have university students going through this same issue, and the answer from this trust is to brush it under the carpet and move students from hospital to hospital. This simply is not good enough.

Jeanette   23/05/2017 at 13:40

It's also racist when a BME is given an advantage because of skin colour. The NHSBT new race recruitment job has has gone to someone based on her skin colour. This post didn't exist before and has never been advertised internally by NHSBT, yet the post has been filled. Someone at a high level made that job post and recruited an individual without anyone objecting, while people searching for NHS jobs to suit their skills didn't even get a chance to apply.

James   02/06/2017 at 13:18

Racism is a free for all activity in my trust. I have face direct. And indirect racism including finding out my line report had been interviewed and promoted without my knowledge and been handed his details to appraise on a new role I know nothing about. I have been excluded from meetings and instead asked to attend meetings not of my colleagues in grades but juniors. I am facing a lot of collusion that I have been declined a copy of the terms of reference and list of meetings that I should be attending. I have been hotdesked as an 8D and my desk giving to an apprentice. No interviews. People just get given jobs. Is this the NHS? When I tried to escalate the bullying, my requests for meetings keep getting blocked. When I make the call again to arrange a meeting, they tell me they have it on record that a meeting has already taking place and my request has been closed. There is a crisis of racism in the NHS. As is usual, they are waiting for a catastrophic spill over before they act. In my trust, there is a lot of damn right theft going on through the temporary staff hiring process but the culture of silence prevents anybody from coming forward. The whistle blower laws don't work. Contract staff are hired to recruit permanent staff so in order to keep their contracts alive, they deliberately block the hiring of permanent staff. Agenda for change has been thrown to the dogs. There have been an attempt to get me to report to a grade 8C even though I am a grade 8D. They have excluded me from senior management meetings and label my role as manager when 8Cs are allowed to attend senior management meetings. If you want a contract job for your friend, brother or sister or friend's son, as in my organisation, just get them to start. No qualifications required. So now we have an organisation where over 50% of staff are contracts by design and have been at their post on average 3 years. The NHS as a workplace is broken. Too much incidents of financial loss to the state going on and nobody is doing anything about it. To ask contract start to recruit other contract staff is to open the door to collusion and conflict of interest.

A Good Nurse   15/08/2017 at 06:40

I worked in Jersey before and racism is rife there. I believe there is no discrimination law so its actually fine to be racist. I heard that not so long ago when you applied for a job, they would ask for a picture, if you black that was it! Its RACISM n BULLYING CAPITAL. Not a single senior black nurse in management when I was there and doubt nothing will have changed. word of advice to BAME staff, Stay away from this place. In the end I had to leave, I needed to feel human again and I am.glad I did.

Neelum   09/09/2017 at 18:32

I have heard so many discussions, assumptions and gross inappropriate language towards patients, out of patient earshot. Im discussed by it and am trying to do something about it. Its disgusting and culturally been allowed to happen as 'well its just funny and its just banter'. Shocking truth is, its being accepted and encouraged to get worse if not addressed. It is truly shocking. Ive only been in NHS for 7 months as a Band 7. Never seen this type of langage towards service users in social service, the council or university where i worked. But the NHS, gosh its not a good first impression at all. People need to reach out to the NHS whistleblowing See link, NHS whistleblowing helpline and proceedure

FM   20/09/2017 at 12:08

I was considering applying for roles within NHS again, but having done research I have decided against doing so. Previously (a few years back) I was selected for a few interviews, alas never succeeded beyond interview stage. I realised that as an ethinc minority my interview presence probably ticked a few boxes and no more. Sadly, this time around I think it's time I stopped visiting the NHS jobs website.

Faranak Groves   28/11/2017 at 17:19

I wished I had never trained to be a nurse,I trained in frimley parkhospital over 30 years ago d was openly and continually bullied,the school of nursing was aware and could not care less,ill be surprised if any thing has changed over the last 30 years,I now work in the private sector and have been treated with respect and kindness,

Neelum Mukhtar   23/01/2018 at 19:44

First time i have worked for the NHS as a senior occupational therapist practitioner and daily lack of respect, the manner in which spoken to, the subtle comments of micro racism has not been dealt well. Despite 6 months later and a complaint of over 15 thousand words highlighting the problems, not just with individuals but with the culture of the department. The outcome is a very disappointed member of staff who just handed her notice in last friday. now looking at ways to alert CQC or any other body that cares to want to know whats going on. Im very saddened by the NHS and probably wont work there again.

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