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Black and Asian nurses overlooked for promotion due to structural racism

Racism is endemic in health and care with White nurses twice as likely to get promoted as Black and Asian staff, an RCN survey has found

Racism is endemic in health and care with White nurses twice as likely to get promoted as Black and Asian staff, an RCN survey has found.

A UK wide survey of nursing staff with nearly 10,000 respondents found that White nursing staff and those of mixed ethnic background across all age groups were more likely than Black and Asian colleagues to have received at least one promotion since starting their nursing career.

The difference appears most stark among those aged 35 to 44 years old. While 65.9% of white and 64% of respondents from mixed ethnic backgrounds within this age group stated they had been promoted, this dropped to just 38.3% of Asian and 35.2% of Black respondents.

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‘These examples of racism experienced by nursing staff in the workplace are deeply shocking,’ said Bruno Daniel, the RCN’s Diversity and Equalities Co-ordinator.

‘The pandemic has shone a spotlight on structural racism in health and care services and we must seize this opportunity to stamp out this vile behaviour once and for all. The UK Government and devolved administrations must properly acknowledge and address this problem and the devastating impact it has on Black and ethnic minority staff and patients.’

The RCN says structural racism is having a devastating impact on minority ethnic staff. For example, the survey also found that Black respondents working in both hospital (38.9%) and community (31.6%) settings are more likely to face the need to report having experienced physical abuse than respondents of other ethnic backgrounds.

The RCN also wants the COVID-19 inquiry to address why a high number of ethnic minority nurses died during pandemic, including any structural reasons.

‘COVID-19 was a terrible situation for Black and ethnic minority nurses in the country. Due to the shortage of PPE, we were not given adequate masks and were told to reuse our protective clothing and wear a gown all day, even if we’d been exposed to COVID-19 patients,’ said agency nurse Roseline Sanni-Ajose, speaking about being sent to high-risk areas during the pandemic.

The RCN is calling on the UK Government to seize the opportunity of its planned reform of human rights legislation so that health and care organisations, regulatory bodies and inspectorates be required to tackle racism, including in the workplace.