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‘A lot more to be done’ to tackle discrimination in the NHS

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BME nurses are less likely to receive a promotion than their white colleagues

Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) nurses still face discrimination in the health service, according to the new Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) report.

The WRES report revealed that although 1 in 5 nurses and midwives are from a BME background, they still remain ‘significantly underrepresented’ at senior management levels and at higher pay brackets.

Responding to the report, Tom Sandford, England Director of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said: ‘There can be no room for racism across the health and social care sector and certainly no place for it within the nursing profession.’

The report also showed that shortlisted white candidates are 60% more likely to be appointed a job than their BME counterparts, with 1 in 5 BME employees saying that discrimination had played a role in their lack of career progression.

‘This report is further evidence of the damaging impact of discrimination on the careers of BME nurses and healthcare support workers. Across England they have less chance of being shortlisted, accessing career development training and are more likely to be formally disciplined than their white colleagues,’ added Tom Sandford.

In addition, BME staff are 37% more likely to undergo a formal disciplinary process compared to white staff – although this is an improvement on the 2016 figure of 56%.

Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer for England and Senior Responsible Officer for WRES said: “I am happy that for the second year in a row, there is evidence of some continued improvement in the WRES data of some trusts and that we have seen a sustained increase in the number of BME nurses in senior posts.

‘There is still a lot to be done to ensure we see more BME nursing and midwifery staff taking on more senior roles. For the first time, the London region has made some slight improvement, which I hope to see continue in the coming years.’

Jane Cummings is referencing the regional geography to this discrimination, with BME staff in London being more likely to experience bullying, harassment, disciplinary proceedings and being least likely to hold senior positions. This is despite London having the largest BME workforce in the country.

Tom Sandford said: ‘It’s also clear they are facing a postcode lottery and are experiencing poorer outcomes in the capital. That’s why the RCN is investing in the London Inclusion Solution to tackle the burgeoning workforce inequality in London.

‘BME staff are facing a slow uphill struggle for equal access to career opportunities and to be treated fairly in the workplace. This makes the work of the RCN’s Cultural Ambassador Programme even more important for promoting equality and inclusion for all NHS staff.

‘When there is racial inequality in the workplace it can affect patient care – it is now time for employers to take robust action to address this systemic problem across the sector.’

Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England said: ‘Building a more representative workforce is good both for hard working NHS staff and for the diverse patients and communities we serve. As the largest employer in Britain and one of the biggest in the world, the NHS has a particular duty to be fair and supportive for all our employees. Today’s assessment shows important improvements for our BME staff, but it’s also a clear reminder of the hard work still ahead.’

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