- 10 March 2023
- 4 min read
Why Do Black And Minority Ethnic Nurses Still Face Discrimination In The NHS?Subscribe To Advice
The 2022 NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) report showed that black and minority ethnic nurses encounter increased discrimination when compared to nurses from other ethnic backgrounds.
What The Data Shows
For registered nurses and midwives working for the NHS in 2021, the data showed that Black British nurses and those from “other” backgrounds were the most liable to experience discrimination from staff in their place of work.
Discrimination levels were also higher for nurses and midwives of Asian, mixed race, and “other” White backgrounds, when compared to that experienced by White British nurses during the same period.
Abuse suffered from members of the public was also higher for nurses and midwives with mixed-race, Black British, or “other” backgrounds.
'At end of last year, our members told us again that ethnic minority nursing staff regularly face abuse and discrimination in the workplace. It is outrageous and we need concrete action from politicians and employers' states RCN Chair of Council, Carol Popplestone.
Nearly half (46%) of those from “other” White backgrounds suffered the highest levels of bullying, harassment or abuse from patients, relatives, or the public, according to the report.
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Why Is This Happening?
Why do you think that NHS staff from minority ethnic backgrounds report suffering higher levels of discrimination than their “White British” colleagues?
Wider data about the NHS England workforce shows that almost a quarter (24%) of the workforce are from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds. Since 2021, the total number of staff from BME backgrounds has increased by more than 27,000.
NHS England declared that the NHS workforce was “more diverse than at any other point in its history”.
Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive at NHS Providers, warned that there was "no room for racism in the NHS" and said trusts were "committed to ensuring that staff at every level are treated with dignity and respect".
Is the NHS Dealing With Discrimination?
What actions can and should be taken within the NHS to address this discrimination, and how much responsibility should the equality, diversity and inclusion cohort, on which the NHS spends over £40 million annually, bear for allowing discrimination of this sort to perpetuate?
Encouragingly, despite remaining under-represented overall, the percentage of board members from minority ethnic background in NHS trusts grew to 13% in 2022, up from 7% in 2017.
The WRES data showed that the total number of staff from a minority ethnic background at very senior manager level had grown by 70% since 2018.
The report also stated that: ‘for nurses and midwives, [who are] the largest part of the workforce, there is a striking disadvantage experienced by black staff, who feel the least equality of opportunity and are the largest victims of discrimination.’
At end of last year, our members told us again that ethnic minority nursing staff regularly face abuse and discrimination in the workplace. It is outrageous and we need concrete action from politicians and employers, states RCN Chair of Council, Carol Popplestone.
Do you think that one way the NHS could stamp out discrimination would be to operate a ‘colour blind’ policy across its entire workforce? Or do you feel ‘colour blind’ policies can lead to situations where we ignore discrimination?
Just over a third (35%) of Black British nurses and midwives said they believed their organisation provided equal opportunities for career progression or promotion in 2021. This was at least a slight improvement on the previous year.
In comparison, nearly two-thirds (62%) of White British nurses felt there were equal career opportunities, as did 53.5% of nurses from “other” White backgrounds, 50% of those from an Asian background, and 46% who were mixed race.
What Do You Think?
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Has The Legacy Of Covid Affected The Data?
How much of the perceived lack of career progression can be attributed to the fact that in 2021, the NHS was still grappling with COVID? And should it be permissible for the extraordinary events of 2020-21 to be used as a justification for unequal career opportunities for nurses and midwives of different races?
Analysis of other data about the wider NHS workforce in England found that workers from minority ethnic backgrounds were 1.14 times more likely to enter the formal disciplinary process compared to White staff in 2022, a figure that had remained the same from the year before.
‘BME staff are still substantially less likely to be shortlisted for jobs, more likely to face disciplinary action, and more likely to report harassment, bullying and abuse from patients than their white colleagues,’ said RCN diversity and equalities coordinator Bruno Daniel.
‘There can be no space for racism in the NHS and we risk frustrated staff leaving for good in the midst of a workforce crisis if substantial progress does not continue to be made’ he continued.
So, do you think the NHS will be able to solve its issues with staff discrimination, or will those staff who feel discriminated against simply leave to work in private healthcare or other areas?
Please let us know what you think in the comments, and Like the article if you found it interesting.