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Race discrimination and nursing: rise in referrals to NMC

75 referrals for racism were made to the NMC in 2020 compared to four in 2015; the rise is thought to show a greater willingness to report racist behaviour 

75 referrals for racism were made to the NMC in 2020 compared to four in 2015; the rise is thought to show a greater willingness to report racist behaviour

Growing numbers of nurses and midwives are being referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) amid allegations of racism.

Rise in reports suggests staff feel more able to speak up about racism

Data obtained from the NMC by Nursing Standard show 75 nurses and midwives were referred to the regulator for race discrimination in 2020, up from just four in 2015.

Middlesex University research fellow Roger Kline, who is an expert in race-related issues in healthcare, suggested the increase could in part be down to improvements in how

75 referrals for racism were made to the NMC in 2020 compared to four in 2015; the rise is thought to show a greater willingness to report racist behaviour

The Nursing and Midwifery Council has seen a huge rise in referrals for race discrimination in 2020
Picture: Barney Newman

Growing numbers of nurses and midwives are being referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) amid allegations of racism.

Rise in reports suggests staff feel more able to speak up about racism

Data obtained from the NMC by Nursing Standard show 75 nurses and midwives were referred to the regulator for race discrimination in 2020, up from just four in 2015.

Middlesex University research fellow Roger Kline, who is an expert in race-related issues in healthcare, suggested the increase could in part be down to improvements in how organisations address racism and also nurses feeling more able to speak up.

‘Some black and minority ethnic staff have decided that they are going to raise these issues in a way that previously you didn’t because the consequence would probably make your situation worse.

‘Organisations are becoming less tolerant of racism. My guess is there could be a lot more referrals in the future.’

NMC figures show there were a total of 233 referrals for race discrimination between 2014 and 16 September 2021.

Of these referrals:

  • Seven registrants were struck off
  • Four were handed suspension orders
  • One received a caution
  • One received a conditions of practice order
  • One registrant had their request to be removed from the register approved
  • 50 cases are still open.

The remaining referrals were either against people not on the NMC register, they were resolved or managed at local level, they did not meet the threshold for investigation, or there was not enough evidence to support the investigation.

Planned independent review will help NMC tackle discrimination

Mr Kline stressed the importance of nurses who experienced or witnessed racism to report it and consider raising their concerns with a Freedom to Speak up Guardian or director of nursing.

‘Write down what you think has happened’, he said.

‘If there are witnesses, see if you can get them to confirm what you have seen.’

NMC chief executive Andrea Sutcliffe said the regulator is planning to commission an independent review to help it tackle discrimination.

‘I hope this rise reflects a willingness to challenge racist behaviours and a greater confidence in the NMC taking these issues seriously,’ she added.


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