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Muslim NHS staff ‘twice as likely to face discrimination at work’

Bias and career disparities due to race, religion or gender revealed in Nuffield Trust report
Picture of two female medics, one wearing a hijab or head scarf

Bias and career disparities due to race, religion or gender revealed in Nuffield Trust report

The extent of discrimination faced by NHS staff due to race, religion or gender is revealed in a new report.

Muslim staff are more than twice as likely as staff of no religion to experience discrimination, according to the report by health think tank the Nuffield Trust , which is partly based on interviews with healthcare workers. It also says male nurses are twice as likely as female nurses to progress up two pay bands.

‘Progress on disparities is slow – and bias may be getting worse’

The research, commissioned by NHS Employers, found that 13% of Muslim staff members

Bias and career disparities due to race, religion or gender revealed in Nuffield Trust report

Picture of two female medics, one wearing a hijab or head scarf
Picture: iStock

The extent of discrimination faced by NHS staff due to race, religion or gender is revealed in a new report.

Muslim staff are more than twice as likely as staff of no religion to experience discrimination, according to the report by health think tank the Nuffield Trust, which is partly based on interviews with healthcare workers. It also says male nurses are twice as likely as female nurses to progress up two pay bands.

‘Progress on disparities is slow – and bias may be getting worse’

The research, commissioned by NHS Employers, found that 13% of Muslim staff members have felt discriminated against by a manager or colleague within the past 12 months, compared with 6% of workers of no religion.

Meanwhile, after nine years’ service, 41% of male nurses have progressed up two pay bands, compared with 20% of female nurses. It also says those who prefer to self-describe their gender are twice as likely to experience discrimination as staff who identify as male or female.

Nuffield Trust senior policy fellow William Palmer said: ‘On paper the NHS has recognised for years that disparities and discrimination among staff are morally unacceptable and disruptive to good quality care. Yet progress in actually reducing disparities has been painfully slow – and we even saw signs that bias may be getting worse.’

Lack of inclusion and diversity a barrier to recruiting and retaining nurses

The report, Attracting, Supporting and Retaining a Diverse NHS Workforce, also says:

  • Staff from an ethnic minority are 27% less likely than white staff to be ‘very senior managers’, though there are large disparities between trusts.
  • White staff are at least twice as likely as those from ethnic minority groups to be appointed from a shortlist at 36 trusts, but at another 32 the likelihood was the same.
  • Two in five NHS workers who are deaf report that they had the reasonable adjustments they needed at work during the pandemic.

Responding to the report, RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said: ‘This report spells out clearly that a lack of inclusion and diversity can’t be pushed down the list of priorities any longer. It’s not just a barrier to recruiting and retaining more nurses, it puts patients at risk.’

To compile the report, researchers conducted a literature view, scoping calls and interviews with trusts and staff, and analyses of data.


Find out more

Nuffield Trust (2021) Attracting, Supporting and Retaining a Diverse NHS Workforce


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