Government-backed expert panel set up to improve race equality

Nurse managers at every level should ensure they stop discrimination and support fair treatment at work, say leaders

Nurse managers at every level should ensure they stop discrimination and support fair treatment at work, say leaders

Race equality
Picture: Alamy

The RCN has stated that minority voices remain under-represented in managerial positions, and NHS leaders at middle and senior levels must identify and remove barriers to their progress.

One aim of The NHS Long Term Plan, published by NHS England, is to make organisations reflect the diversity of the communities they serve, given the dearth of staff from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds in senior teams and at board level.

As part of this renewed commitment to tackling inequality, £1 million a year have been promised to support work on the NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) until at least 2025.

In addition, eight senior nurses form part of a team of 42 experts brought together by NHS England to help organisations improve workforce race equality and embed WRES.

Embedding best practice

Working with senior staff, these experts will help to reduce the disparity between BME and white staff, and support the health system to develop action plans and embed best practice in race equality.


executive directors of nursing have BME backgrounds across 231 NHS trusts in England

Source: NHS England

Using a combination of workforce data, national NHS staff survey data and information about trusts’ boards, WRES analysts track annually the treatment of BME staff in NHS organisations.

Organisations are expected to do what the best ones already do – scrutinise and understand the data, then act on it – and then ensure staff are treated fairly, irrespective of ethnicity.

The latest annual WRES data analysis in England shows rising levels of discrimination, bullying and harassment in the past year, and too few BME staff at senior levels. For example:

  • 15.0% of BME staff have complained of discrimination in the past 12 months, up from 13.8% in the previous year.
  • BME staff make up 19.1% of the NHS workforce in England, but only 6.9% of the most senior managers are from BME backgrounds.
  • BME staff are 1.24 times more likely to enter a formal disciplinary process than white staff.

Much needed change

NHS England director of WRES implementation and RCN deputy president Yvonne Coghill says the new WRES investment and the experts will help make much needed changes in the NHS.

Yvonne Coghill

‘Our experts are already supporting organisations to improve their race equality strategies, with a second group set to join them and champion the programme across the NHS in England.’

Ms Coghill says that nurse managers must do their part to support fair treatment at work by recognising and acknowledging the link between workforce motivation, inclusion and high-quality patient care.

‘More than one in five nurses and midwives in the NHS is from a BME background.

‘Their contribution to the NHS, to patient care, patient satisfaction and patient safety cannot and should not be underestimated.

‘There is a need to ensure that processes and practices to support the development and progression of all staff in their teams are put in place and followed through rigorously.’

Career progression

RCN acting chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair thinks that nurse managers need to do more to end discrimination.


of very senior managers are from BME backgrounds

Source: NHS England

Donna Kinnair

‘Nursing leaders at mid- and senior levels are often responsible for key aspects of staff career progression, including promotions, access to learning and development opportunities, and disciplinary processes.

‘In all these areas, we know BME staff lose out compared with white colleagues; this is not only damaging to the personal and professional lives of BME staff, but also to the health service itself.

‘Many approaches already exist to weed out overt and systemic discrimination, and good practice exists across the country. But the fact remains that not enough is being done by managers, a grouping where minority voices sadly remain grossly underrepresented.

‘It is up to leaders at all levels of NHS trusts to identify barriers and take immediate steps to remove them. The management of an organisation should reflect that of its workforce and the community it serves.’

Leadership training

Anthony Jemmott, community matron at Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust, London, is one of the WRES expert nurses.

Anthony Jemmott

He says the leadership training the experts received was ‘second to none’, and it has armed them with data and research that help make the business case for race equality.

‘We never had the data to evidence what is happening before the WRES programme, but there is that data now and we have a benchmark to measure progress.

Mr Jemmott says nurse managers should educate themselves about the need for race equality.

‘Race inequality impacts back on patient care, when staff are leaving posts,’ he explains.

‘One scenario is that a BME member of staff is treated differently from white members of staff so that person leaves and their caseload goes to other members of staff, who get fed up and leave.

‘There is an economic impact if you don’t address race issues.’

Action plans

Mr Jemmot says a new WRES group has now been formed across his trust’s geographic area with neighbouring organisations, such as the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust, and University College London.


of staff in NHS trusts are from BME backgrounds

Source: NHS England

Local clinical commissioning groups can then look at common themes and put action plans in place to address them.

Across England, the WRES experts will work in their regional areas and smaller localities to support similar initiatives.

Nichole McIntosh

North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust assistant director of nursing Nichole McIntosh says some dismiss the WRES data as ‘a national problem’ and it is important for people to challenge these views when they arise in the workplace.

‘We need to start with recruitment processes, and make sure we have equal opportunity and that due process takes place in all recruitment for all bands of staff, from healthcare support workers upwards. We need diverse interview panels.’

Ms McIntosh says that when she started at her trust in 2016 she was the only BME nurse at band 8c and many BME staff came to talk to her.

‘One woman said “You are here. I didn’t think I would live to see this.” I felt overburdened, but we all have to have moral courage to make change happen.’

With a new groundswell of support for and NHS investment in championing equality and diversity, is it possible that that change is at last on the horizon?

The nurses on the NHS England expert team

Tasnim Ali

Tasnim Ali, business manager, Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust. Background as nurse in acute, community and primary care settings, and a manager with 20 years’ experience

Sandra Bennett

Sandra Bennett, lead nurse integrated sexual health, Barts Health NHS Trust, London. Qualifications in general, psychiatric, community nursing, non-medical prescriber, lecturer and clinical tutor

Liz Fenton, deputy chief nurse, Health Education England. Clinical and leadership roles in acute and community settings, including at board level. Became a Queen’s Nurse in 2017

Liz Fenton

Anthony Jemmott, community matron, Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust, London. Independent nurse prescriber in mental health running a nurse-led, prescribing clinic and mentor

Su Lapper

Su Lapper, project nurse, University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust. Started career as enrolled nurse and most recently was headhunted for a sister’s post in respiratory medicine

Sinead O’Neill, senior nurse workforce, regulation and revalidation, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, London. Background as advanced nurse practitioner, master’s degree in healthcare management and education, faculty trainer

Sinead O’Neill

Wendy Ann Tangen

Loverne Oredeko, women’s services senior nurse and gynaecology services head of nursing, Barts Health NHS Trust, London. Staff mentor and lead nurse on violence against women and girls

Wendy Ann Tangen, clinical team manager, Leeds and York Partnership Foundation NHS Trust. Co-chairs workforce race equality network and promotes engagement with BME staff members


Stephanie Jones-Berry is a health writer

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