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Apology to North West Black nurse follows publication of poor performance report for BME health staff

9 Mar 2023

A senior black nurse from the North West has received an apology from NHS England (NHSE) after she faced racial discrimination, harassment and victimisation while employed by NHSE&I Commissioning.

The apology, sent to Michelle Cox last week, follows Ms Cox winning a landmark race discrimination case (on 15 February 2023) against NHSE after the judge heard evidence that her employer had treated her unfavourably because of her race. The tribunal unanimously found in favour of Ms Cox.


This tribunal outcome and apology follows the annual release of the NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) report for 2022 which gives insight into how each Trust in England is managing issues and monitors how staff from different minority and ethnic backgrounds are treated.  It is measured against nine indicators.

Despite progress made by employers to address race inequality, the latest performance by NHS trusts against the WRES indicators shows that BME workers have worse outcomes than their white colleagues in relation to career progression, disciplinary action and other measures.

For indicator two, which measures the relative likelihood of white applicants being appointed from shortlisting compared to BME applicants, the North West has improved and is therefore no longer the worst performer in England. The latest results show that the likelihood of a BME member of staff getting a role above their white colleagues has dropped from 1.77 in 2021 to 1.62 per cent in 2022.

However, the relative likelihood of BME staff entering the formal disciplinary process compared to white staff (indicator three), has deteriorated over the previous 12 months, with 1.06 percent of BME staff having been more likely than their white counterparts to enter the formal disciplinary process in 2021, subsequently rising to 1.20 in 2022.

Whilst data for the number of BME staff experiencing harassment, bullying or abuse from patients, relatives or the public in the last 12 months is not available for 2022, the report demonstrates that BME staff have a greater likelihood of being subjected to these experiences than their white colleagues, rising for both ethnic groups in 2021 compared to 2020.

The RCN’s North West Regional Director, Estephanie Dunn, said: “BME staff continue to face an uphill struggle, it seems, to prove themselves in the workplace.  No one should have to go to work and expect unfair treatment because of their race.

“Michelle’s employment tribunal outcome should send a strong message to employers that in 2023 racism needs serious management because our members are willing to speak-up about their poor experiences.

“Research indicates there is a link between harmful cultures and the safety of patients, as well as the well-being of staff, so resolving these issues can’t wait. Whilst there are undoubted improvements across the region, more work needs to be done to tackle these problems head on.

“We need more people like Michelle to speak up and challenge appalling discriminatory behaviour that is happening every day to BME colleagues who are ultimately stunted in, or lose their career paths, as a result.”

In the North West, 14.8 per cent of the NHS workforce identify themselves as BME, equating to around 30,646 staff, an increase of more than 3,000.

Ms Dunn added: “There are some significant strides that need to be taken for equal access to career opportunities and to be treated fairly in the workplace. The RCN North West region is committed to working with Trusts where we can to support them on activities to improve their equality, diversity and inclusion agendas and strategies. However, our members come first and foremost and these reports are, quite frankly, a disappointment.”

Page last updated - 07/08/2023