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Exclusive: 'Wasteful, outdated and unfair beliefs' hold BME nurses back, says RCN

New data obtained by Nursing Standard reveals that only 2% of nurses at the very top of the NHS in governance and leadership positions are from a BME background.

Just 2% of nurses at the top of the NHS in England identify as black or minority ethnic (BME), according to new data obtained by Nursing Standard.

The figures supplied by NHS Digital show that of 261 director of nursing job roles in NHS trusts and clinical commissioning groups across England, only six people (2.2%) have self-categorised as being of black, Asian or mixed heritage.

In contrast, more than nine out of 10 nursing directors are white (92.3%), while a further 14 (5.3%) have either not stated their ethnicity, or it is otherwise unknown.

'Continuing'

RCN diversity and equalities coordinator Wendy Irwin said: 'This is further evidence that systemic discrimination continues to blight the professional lives of nurses.

'At a time,

Just 2% of nurses at the top of the NHS in England identify as black or minority ethnic (BME), according to new data obtained by Nursing Standard.


Discrimination is still evident as new figures show just 2% of top NHS nurses identify as BME.
 Picture: iStock

The figures supplied by NHS Digital show that of 261 director of nursing job roles in NHS trusts and clinical commissioning groups across England, only six people (2.2%) have self-categorised as being of ‘black, Asian or mixed’ heritage.

In contrast, more than nine out of 10 nursing directors are white (92.3%), while a further 14 (5.3%) have either not stated their ethnicity, or it is otherwise unknown.

'Continuing'

RCN diversity and equalities coordinator Wendy Irwin said: 'This is further evidence that systemic discrimination continues to blight the professional lives of nurses.

'At a time, when health and social care needs to take a radically different approach to spotting and nurturing talent, we still see the impact of wasteful, outdated and unfair beliefs that prevent nurses from reaching their full potential.'

Ms Irwin said the RCN would soon be 'starting a new conversation' about how organisations can include and work with diverse workforces for the benefit of nurses and for better patient care.

Middlesex University research fellow Roger Kline, who authored the 2014 Snowy White Peaks of the NHS report into discrimination in NHS leadership said some trusts showed a 'glacial' pace of change.

He said: 'These figures show the NHS still has a fundamental challenge in ensuring that BME nurses and midwives still have equal opportunities to become NHS leaders.

'Although the NHS is starting to take steps to level the playing field it is still the case that while almost a quarter of band 5 nurses and midwives are from BME backgrounds, there are still only a handful at Band 8C and above.

'Some trusts and clinical commissioning groups are showing what is possible, but the pace of change remains too slow.

Challenge to change

'The initiatives by national bodies to speed things up are welcome and need to not only provide support to BME nurses and midwives, but challenge the glacial pace of change in other trusts.

'There are some encouraging signs of improvement in Bands 7 and 8a, but at present too much talent is still going to waste – that is not good for the NHS or for patient care.'

NHS Improvement executive director of nursing Ruth May said the NHS was 'collectively committed' to improving race equality and ensuring it was an equal opportunities employer.

Dr May said: 'Together we need to make sure that we continue to make changes, promote equality and build a strong workforce that supports and nurtures all staff.

'I am personally determined to continue working with our aspiring nurse leaders and to reinforce the message that nurses with BME backgrounds should be getting the opportunities they need to progress their careers and feel supported in the environment they work in.

'We know trusts are working hard and looking at ways to improve and share good practice, but only by working together and looking at how we are supporting staff, can we create lasting change.’


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