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More BME nurses moving into senior positions but many staff 'still suffering in silence', report reveals

Black and minority ethinic (BME) nurses and midwives are continuing to 'suffer in silence' in England, but there are signs of improvement in a new report.

Black and minority ethnic (BME) staff are continuing to 'suffer in silence' in the NHS in England, but there are signs of improvement in a new report.


A new report has shown that BME staff may be suffering in silence following a fall in
discrimination reporting. Picture: Getty Images

The second annual Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) report, with data from NHS-funded providers, showed an increase in the number of BME staff progressing from Band 5 and 4% more BME senior managers.

But, it also showed BME staff remain significantly more likely to experience discrimination at work from colleagues and their managers, despite a small drop of 15% to 14% reporting discrimination personally in 2015 compared with the previous 12 months.

Co-chair of the NHS Equality and Diversity Council and NHS Confederation associate director Joan Saddler said: 'It is crucial to the success of the NHS that we listen to people using services and enable diverse teams to deliver services efficiently and compassionately.

'The evidence points to BME staff suffering in silence as they are absent at leadership levels or bullied disproportionately to the rest of the workforce. This is not acceptable and providers of NHS services and system partners need to improve in a planned and sustained way.'

Key findings included:

  • BME nurses in bands 6 to 9 increased by 4,187 between 2014 and 2016.
  • Overall, BME staff remain significantly more likely to experience discrimination at work from colleagues and their managers, although there was a 1% decrease in the percentage of BME staff reporting personal experiences of discrimination at work in 2015.
  • White shortlisted job applicants are 1.57 times more likely to be appointed than BME shortlisted applicants.
  • BME staff remain less likely than white staff to believe their trust provides equal opportunities for career progression. However, the gap between white and BME staff on this indicator fell from 14.5% in 2014 to 12.6% in 2015.
  • White and BME staff were equally likely to experience harassment, bullying or abuse from patients, relatives and members of the public in the last 12 months.
  • Very senior managers from BME backgrounds increased by 4% during 2015-16.
  • BME representation at executive board and very senior management level remained significantly lower across the board. 

Responding to the latest figures, RCN England director Tom Sandford said:

'These figures show once again the evidence that black and minority ethnic staff in the NHS are significantly more likely to experience discrimination and are less likely to be appointed than their similarly qualified white colleagues.

'This is racism and it’s time that the health and social care sector took the challenge of tackling it seriously and systematically.  

'This report adds to the growing body of disturbing evidence that shows that black and minority ethnic staff experience more discrimination at work from colleagues and their managers. It is absolutely vital that employers work with their accredited trade union representatives and front-line staff to ensure that equality is a clear priority.'

England's chief nursing officer Jane Cummings said: 'I am pleased that some hospitals and trusts are making steady progress and ensuring black and minority ethnic nurses and midwives are not discriminated against and are equally appointed to senior banding grades.

'I am encouraged by the way NHS organisations are putting their minds to tackling the waste of talent that previous data has shown. There has been some marked improvement, but more needs to be done.'

NHS England said it is helping to identify and share best practice to improve recruitment, board membership, and tackling disciplinary action and bullying of BME staff. This includes training and developing 75 champions based in trusts to spread best practice and improve patient care.


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