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Supporting BME staff 'is everyone's responsibility'

Advisory group chair says BME staff have the skills and ability, but without opportunity too many remain stuck at band 5 or 6

Everyone in the NHS needs to take responsibility for championing black and minority ethnic (BME) staff, a nurse leader on diversity issues has said.

The chief nursing officer’s BME advisory group chair Joan Myers said BME staff were disproportionately harassed, bullied and treated differently, adding: ‘We all need to take responsibility.’

Speaking at the Florence Nightingale Foundation annual conference in London today (March 18), Ms Myers said: ‘In the NHS, it is a crying shame that lots of BME staff are harassed, bullied or going to employment tribunals.’

She challenged others to speak up should they witness this sort of behaviour, or risk being complicit.

She also said that in a workforce increasingly reliant on overseas nurses who needed support and nurturing, the opposite was often the reality.

‘We have asked nurses to come and work here and when they get here, they [often] have a negative experience – they came here to support the NHS.’

However, Ms Myers, a nurse consultant at North East London NHS Foundation Trust, highlighted the positive impact an ethnic minority network has had at her organisation.

BME staff comprise about 36% of the trust’s 6,500 workforce, yet in 2013 almost 53% of all those entering formal disciplinary processes were BME. By 2015, this was down to 35%.

There was also no BME representation at band 8 or above, so the trust ensured there was a BME person on every interview panel at this grade, and focused on supporting existing staff with training, mentoring and development.

‘When I walked in to my interview and saw another black person on the panel, I thought “there’s someone like me”,’ Ms Myers said.

‘[Too many] BME staff are stuck at band 5 or 6,’ she said. ‘BME people have skills, confidence and ability, they just need the opportunity like anyone else.'

Levels of BME staff at the trust experiencing bullying, harassment or abuse from other staff also reduced from 49.9% in 2013 to 22% in 2015.

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