NHS' 'hierarchy of colour' exposed by BME midwives' dismissal statistics

Midwives from BME backgrounds are more likely to face disciplinaries and receive harsher punishments than white colleagues

Non-white NHS staff are getting a raw deal, according to a panel of midwives.

During a debate at the Trades Union Congress (TUC) headquarters last night (16 June) to discuss the impact of the NHS Workplace race equality standard (WRES), the audience heard that non-white midwives are still more likely to face disciplinary proceedings and receive harsher punishments than white colleagues.

The debate heard from midwives who told how racism and prejudice had hindered their careers.


A panel of experts, including University of Bradford professor of diversity Uduak Archibong, discussed the Royal College of Midwives (RCM)’s recent report .

It showed that in 2010-15 a total of 38 midwives were dismissed; all but one of whom came from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds.

The report also revealed how disciplinary hearings for BME employees resulted in dismissal in 13.2% of cases compared with 0.7% of those involving white staff.

'Hierarchy of colour'

WRES implementation director at NHS England Yvonne Coghill admitted the situation was bad and that it is a global issue and not limited to the NHS.

Ms Coghill said there is a hierarchy of colour within the NHS where BME staff with lighter skin who speak English are less discriminated against than those with darker skin who do not. But she insisted change was possible.

NHS laid bare

Ms Coghill told the audience of midwives that there needed to be more leaders and more role models from BME backgrounds.

She added: ‘We have not had data and metrics like this before and I do applaud the NHS for laying itself bare with WRES clearly showing where the problems remain.’

RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick admitted her organisation had been slow on the issue but insisted it was determined to help get more BME staff represented at board level.

Further information

RCM report: BME Midwives, Disciplinary Proceedings and the Workplace Race Equality Standard

NHS England: Workplace race equality standard



This is a free article for registered users

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this? You can register for free access.