BME nurses in London face more discrimination than in the rest of England, RCN claims

NHS employers in London cannot dismiss racism as merely a minority issue, college says
nurse looks downcast

NHS employers in London cannot dismiss racism as merely a minority issue, college says

Picture: Alamy

London's NHS trusts must tackle institutional racism that is blighting the careers of black and minority ethnic (BME) nurses there, according to the RCN.

RCN London said health service employers should stop dismissing race equality as a minority issue, as it published analysis showing BME nurses now outnumber their white colleagues in London.

In May this year, there were 27,982 BME nurses employed by London’s NHS compared to 24,847 white nurses, according to analysis of NHS Digital data.

Despite these numbers, RCN London said the region's BME nurses experienced the highest level of discrimination in the country.

'This has been swept under the carpet'

RCN London operational manager Mark Farmer said: 'For too long, employers and the wider system have tried to sweep it under the carpet and dismiss the issue of racism because they believe it only affects a minority of staff – our analysis now blows that out of the water.'

Mr Farmer called on NHS leaders to act, declaring failure to do so would be a dereliction of duty.

According to the RCN London analysis, more than 60% of London’s 36 trusts had a majority BME nursing workforce.

A marked lack of diversity

But the college identified some trusts as having a 'severe' lack of diversity, with Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust (GOSH) and Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust having 82% and 70% of their nurses respectively identifying as white.

A GOSH spokesperson said the organisation considered workforce diversity an important issue, adding it has recently launched a BME staff forum.

A spokesperson for the Royal Marsden said there was scope for change it was encouraging the most recent Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) survey had shown improvement at the trust.

The spokesperson said: ‘For example, the percentage of BME staff believing the trust provides equal opportunities for career progression and promotion increased from 74% in 2017 to 78% in 2018.’ 

The WRES, which was introduced in 2015, is a set of national guidelines to improve the representation and experience of BME staff at all levels in the NHS in England.

WRES figures for 2017 demonstrated BME NHS staff in London were least likely to be in senior positions or to be promoted, and more likely than other BME staff in the rest of England to face disciplinary, and bullying and harassment from colleagues or the public. 

NHS England 's regional chief nurse for the London Region, Oliver Shanley, said the NHS in London was committed to tackling racial discrimination. 

'Since 2015, there have been significant improvements and there are many trusts in London that are now doing well but we recognise the need to continue improve BME representation, especially at senior leadership levels,' he said.

'We are extremely proud of the amazing work of BME staff across the NHS in London and will continue to celebrate the contributions they make every day in caring for Londoners.'

Related material

In other news