Race discrimination complaints rise in NHS England

Reports from BME staff of discrimination, harassment and bullying were up last year

Picture: Alamy

Black and minority ethnic (BME) staff in the NHS experienced rising levels of discrimination, bullying and harassment in the past year, research suggests.

Some 15% of BME staff complained of discrimination in the past 12 months, up from 13.8% in the previous year, according to the NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) annual report.

Situation is 'disgraceful'

The RCN branded the rise in reported discrimination in England's NHS a disgrace and called for more BME leaders in the service. Only 6.9% of senior managers come from BME backgrounds even though BME people make up 19.1% of the NHS England workforce.

‘NHS trusts need to engage their staff and bring them into the process of resolving discrimination and systemic racism’

Dame Donna Kinnair

For the fourth year running, London was the worst-performing region. The report showed:

  • 29.9% of London BME staff reported experiencing harassment, bullying and abuse from other staff in the past 12 months.
  • 16.3% reported being discriminated against at work by their managers, team members or colleagues.
  • 30.4% said they experienced harassment, bullying or abuse from patients, relatives of patients or the public.

Employers and unions need to collaborate

RCN acting general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair called the findings ‘truly appalling’ and said it was up to employers and policymakers, working with unions and others, to put an end to the situation.

She said: ‘Improving career progression and stamping out employment discrimination – overt and systemic – should be a priority.

‘NHS trusts need to engage their staff and bring them into the process of resolving discrimination and systemic racism. The RCN is willing to work with employers to make this happen.’

RCN London regional director Jude Diggins said: ‘London is the most diverse region in the country but it is yet again the worst-performing when it comes to race equality.

Inclusion summit planned

‘NHS leaders and trusts in London must once and for all demonstrate that they take the issue of race equality seriously. That means engaging properly with BME staff and examining the cultures and processes that discriminate against them.’

The RCN will hold an inclusion summit this summer to help support senior nursing leaders looking to tackle racism and other forms of discrimination and inequality in the NHS and across the profession.

More funding for race equality project

NHS England has renewed its commitment to the WRES project with £1 million in funding for it over each of the next seven years.

A team of experts will attempt to improve race equality in the health service, as pledged in the new NHS Long Term Plan.

To ensure the proposals make a practical difference, NHS England said it has appointed a team of 42 experts from the existing workforce who will work with senior staff to close the gaps between BME and white staff.

NHS England director of WRES Implementation Yvonne Coghill said: ‘Investing in the WRES into the middle of the next decade will help us make the changes that our staff and patients need and deserve.’

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