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Overseas nurses humiliated by ‘overt’ racism in NHS, report finds

Inequalities review tells of black and minority ethnic nursing staff enduring racist abuse 

NHS Race and Health Observatory’s damning review tells of black and minority ethnic staff enduring ‘institutional, structural and interpersonal racism’

International nurses are left humiliated, distressed and confused as they encounter ‘overt and covert racism’ in the NHS when they come to work in the UK, a damning new review has found.

A major inequalities review, published on Monday, described how staff recruited from overseas experience ‘institutional, structural and interpersonal racism’, with ‘evidence of NHS minority ethnic staff enduring racist abuse from other staff and patients’ which was ‘particularly stark for black groups’.

Some patients have refused treatment from international or black nurses the

NHS Race and Health Observatory’s damning review tells of black and minority ethnic staff enduring ‘institutional, structural and interpersonal racism’

Inequalities review tells of black and minority ethnic nurses enduring racist abuse from other staff and patients
Picture: iStock

International nurses are left humiliated, distressed and confused as they encounter ‘overt and covert racism’ in the NHS when they come to work in the UK, a damning new review has found.

A major inequalities review, published on Monday, described how staff recruited from overseas experience ‘institutional, structural and interpersonal racism’, with ‘evidence of NHS minority ethnic staff enduring racist abuse from other staff and patients’ which was ‘particularly stark for black groups’.

Some patients have refused treatment from international or black nurses the NHS Race and Health Observatory (NHSRHO) found.

Government strategy to address inequalities raised in report ‘long overdue’, says RCN

Other incidents in the report included staff undermining the work of their international colleagues, drawing unfair conclusions about work ethic, motivation or character, and managers who were seen to apply more scrutiny to black international nurses working in their team.

RCN chair of council Carol Popplestone said a long-term government strategy to address the inequalities raised in the report was ‘long overdue’.

‘At end of last year, our members told us again that ethnic minority nursing staff regularly face abuse and discrimination in the workplace. It is outrageous and we need concrete action from politicians and employers,’ she said.

‘The pandemic has highlighted those inequalities and should have been a watershed moment – this report suggests there is still much to be done’.

Evidence of barriers in career progression for black and minority ethnic nurses

Alongside racism experienced by black and minority ethnic nurses, the report also found evidence of a pay gap affecting black, Asian, and other ethnic groups, and to a lesser extent staff from a Chinese heritage.

There was also evidence of barriers in career progression, with only 53% of nurses and midwives from ethnic minorities given professional training in the last year, compared to 63% of their white colleagues.

The NHSRHO’s rapid review, which looked at patient outcomes as well as the workforce, urged ‘critical action’ be undertaken by NHS England and NHS Digital. The organisation made five recommendations to identify and address racism in the workforce and called for a systematic review of racist experiences.

NHS to drive forward report’s recommendations

The review also called for investment in interpreter services, additional funding for research into institutional racism, and better data collection by NHSE and NHS Digital to evaluate the experiences of the workforce.

An NHS spokesperson said:There is never an excuse for racism or any form of discrimination and it should not be tolerated by anyone, including our hard-working and dedicated NHS staff.

‘The NHS has set out what local health services should be doing over the next year to make improvements in their local communities for patients, and will continue working closely with the Race and Health Observatory to drive forward the recommendations set out in this report.’


Find out more

NHS Race and Health Observatory (2022) Ethnic Inequalities in Healthcare: A Rapid Evidence Review


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