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Microaggression at work: hospital staff told to use 'Western' names

Accountability, not just training, needed to tackle discrimination, says equality campaigner

Accountability, not just training, is needed to tackle everyday discrimination, says equality campaigner

A nurse campaigner has called for stronger action to tackle everyday discrimination in the NHS, after hospital staff from minority ethnic backgrounds were told to use ‘Western’ names.

Staff at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust were told to use different names while on duty because their own were ‘too difficult’ to pronounce.

Microaggression that makes staff feel unwelcome

The issue came to light in a letter from the Care Quality Commission setting out interim findings from an unannounced inspection of trust services in June.

‘We were concerned to hear from staff

Accountability, not just training, is needed to tackle everyday discrimination, says equality campaigner

Weston General Hospital in Bristol Picture: Alamy

A nurse campaigner has called for stronger action to tackle everyday discrimination in the NHS, after hospital staff from minority ethnic backgrounds were told to use ‘Western’ names.

Staff at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust were told to use different names while on duty because their own were ‘too difficult’ to pronounce.

Microaggression that makes staff feel unwelcome

The issue came to light in a letter from the Care Quality Commission setting out interim findings from an unannounced inspection of trust services in June.

‘We were concerned to hear from staff that they have been told by line managers to adopt a ‘Western work name’, as the pronouncing of their name was too difficult. This is not acceptable,’ said the letter to trust chief executive Robert Woolley.

At a trust board meeting on 29 July, Mr Woolley said there was ‘no management instruction’ regarding the names staff use, adding: ‘That kind of behaviour constitutes what we call microaggression and cumulatively that just leaves staff feeling judged and unwelcome.’

He said the trust would be organising additional staff training from August to cover ‘microaggressive behaviours as well as the inability to respect people’s given names’.

Nurses ‘robbed of an aspect of their identity’

Neomi Bennett
Neomi Bennett

However, founder of the campaign group Equality4Blacknurses Neomi Bennett said training often does not go far enough.

She told Nursing Standard it was common for NHS staff from minority ethnic backgrounds to be asked to change their names – or even to have names changed for them – and this robbed them of an important aspect of their identity.

‘There is no reason why someone cannot take a moment to actually learn the correct pronunciation of someone’s name,’ she said.

She said further action should be taken against managers or others who persist in this type of behaviour. ‘We’ve got floods of black nurses who have experienced microaggressions, some for 20 years, and there is no accountability, no punishment,’ she said.

University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust was contacted for additional comment.

The CQC’s full report is expected to be published next month.


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