Editorial

Should we drop our Black History Month special issue?

Nursing Standard editor Graham Scott asks if it's time to try a new approach to raising BME issues
Graham Scott

Nursing Standard editor Graham Scott asks if it's time to try a new approach to raising BME issues

As editor of Nursing Standard, am I right to maintain our tradition of publishing a special issue each October to mark Black History Month?

I ask myself this question every autumn. When I ask others, I receive a mixed response, with some saying we should stop and others arguing with equal passion that we should continue.

Opinion is similarly divided within the RCNi office, with staff falling on either side of the debate in roughly equal numbers.

Those in favour believe that the issues facing black and minority ethnic (BME) nursing staff and service users must be highlighted because some employers, commissioners and colleagues are failing to deal with racism, institutional or otherwise.

Opponents tend to argue that our coverage of BME issues should be incorporated

Nursing Standard editor Graham Scott asks if it's time to try a new approach to raising BME issues

As editor of Nursing Standard, am I right to maintain our tradition of publishing a special issue each October to mark Black History Month?

I ask myself this question every autumn. When I ask others, I receive a mixed response, with some saying we should stop and others arguing with equal passion that we should continue.

Opinion is similarly divided within the RCNi office, with staff falling on either side of the debate in roughly equal numbers.

Those in favour believe that the issues facing black and minority ethnic (BME) nursing staff and service users must be highlighted because some employers, commissioners and colleagues are failing to deal with racism, institutional or otherwise.

Opponents tend to argue that our coverage of BME issues should be incorporated into our daily online coverage and throughout every print journal (which of course we endeavour to do).

Astrologers will not be surprised to know that, as a Libran, I can see both sides of the argument.

Black History Month was first celebrated in the UK in 1987, which by coincidence is the same year that the first issue of Nursing Standard was published in its current format.

First special issue

Our first special issue came along in 2005, the idea of my predecessor Jean Gray. The topics covered then will sound eerily familiar.

In a guest editorial, the late Sharon Dennis lamented, in her opening sentence, that BME people in the UK have poorer health, lack access to healthcare provision and have lower levels of satisfaction with the NHS than their white counterparts.

She also referred to evidence that BME nursing staff were faring relatively poorly during the clinical re-grading exercise that took place as part of the Agenda for Change pay reforms.

Other issues raised 11 years ago include an expose on the alarming prevalence of female genital mutilation worldwide, a plea for nurses to improve their cultural awareness, and an interview with the newly appointed NHS equality and human rights director Surinder Sharma.

Transformational

Fast forward to this year, and on the cover of our first issue in Black History Month you will find black nurse Gloria Rowland, a finalist in the RCNi Nurse Awards 2016, whose use of transformational leadership skills helped turn around a struggling midwifery unit.

There’s a fascinating interview with Elizabeth Anionwu, whose lifetime of achievements was topped this summer with the unveiling of a statue to her nursing hero, Mary Seacole.

Columnists include Yvonne Coghill, director of the Workforce Race Equality Standard implementation programme at NHS England, and Sekayi Tangayi, service manager and specialist nurse in haemoglobinopathies at East London NHS Foundation Trust. And look out for more content thoughout the month.

The tone this year is more positive and celebratory. I’ll leave others to judge whether it is good for us to be more upbeat, or if that amounts to a denial of the real-life experience of BME nursing staff and service users.

So, to return to my question at the start, what do you think? I would love to hear from you. Should Nursing Standard continute to mark Black History Month? Join the conversation using the space for comments below.

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