The RCN has paid tribute to the BME nurses who ‘helped to build the health service that we all rely on’, but stressed that more needs to be done to give them parity with white colleagues. Speaking on the 70thanniversary of the arrival of Empire Windrush, which brought the first wave of immigrants from the Caribbean to the UK, RCN chief executive Janet Davies said: ‘The Windrush generation and their descendants are a credit to our society and the nursing profession. They have been our valued colleagues for over 70 years and their contribution to keeping the service running is undeniable.’
The Windrush Generation, invited to fill labour shortages in post-war Britain, arrived just in time for the birth of the NHS which came into being a couple of weeks later. The connection endured and it is estimated that the NHS trained 100,000 Caribbean and African nurses between 1948 and 1973. Today a quarter of nurses and midwives in the UK are from a BAME background, and the number rises to 40% in areas such as London.
But as the RCN points out, BME people are still woefully underrepresented in management, with under 7% at senior levels. The Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) report found that BME nurses and midwives have less chance of being shortlisted, accessing career development training and are more likely to be formally disciplined than their white colleagues. The RCN runs its Cultural Ambassador programme to challenge these imbalances, working with NHS employers to challenge racism and improve WRES measures.
‘Times have moved on since the 1940s yet BME staff still do not have equal access to career opportunities and fair treatment in the workplace,’ said Ms Davies.‘This makes the work of the RCN’s Cultural Ambassador Programme even more important for promoting equality and inclusion for all NHS staff. We are absolutely clear that there is no room for racism or any form of hate in nursing.’