Your web browser is outdated and may be insecure

The RCN recommends using an updated browser such as Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome

NHS report shows discrimination against BAME health workers at work

11 Apr 2022

Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff working in the NHS have spoken out about discrimination they’ve faced from their own manager since the COVID pandemic began.

NHS England has published the NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) report for 2021 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 BAME workers have worse outcomes than their white colleagues in relation to career progression, disciplinary action and other measures. But, most shockingly, the report shows that more BAME staff are experiencing discrimination from a manager at work. 

For indicator two, which measures the relative likelihood of white applicants being appointed from shortlisting compared to BAME applicants, the region has performed the worst in England. Rather than improving, it is steadily getting worse meaning the likelihood of a white member of staff getting a role, compared to a BAME colleague, is now 1.77 times greater, up from 1.46 in the past five years.

The report also finds (indicator 5) that the number of BAME staff experiencing harassment, bullying or abuse from patients, relatives or the public in the last 12 months has decreased nationally but does demonstrate a likelihood of BME staff experiencing more than their white colleagues.  The decrease could be due to reduced face-to-face contact between patients or service users.

Despite this initial positivity, indicator six then goes on to demonstrate that there has been a rise (2 per cent) of BAME staff in the region reporting increased harassment, bullying or abuse from other staff in the last 12 months.  

Furthermore, nationally the percentage of BAME staff that personally experienced discrimination at work from a manager, team leader or other colleagues is at its highest level since 2015.  In the North west region, this has risen to 16.3%. 

The RCN’s North West Regional Director, Estephanie Dunn, recently attended the launch of the findings of a study ‘Nursing Narratives’ which investigated the treatment and experiences of BAME nurses during the pandemic.  She described the outcome report and upon watching the film produced as part of the study both ‘disturbing’ and ‘upsetting’.

She said: “BAME 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. It isn't right that nursing staff feel they have to leave their job or our profession as a result, including in the middle of a workforce crisis when every highly skilled team member counts. 

“Research indicates there is a link between harmful cultures and the safety of patients, and the well-being of staff, so resolving these issues can’t wait.

“Staff of all ethic backgrounds have worked flat out during this pandemic and I am extremely saddened to continuously hear about the mistreatment and prejudice these professionals are facing.  More alarmingly from what appears to be their own colleagues and managers.  It’s simply not acceptable.”

In the North West, 13.3% of the NHS workforce identify themselves as BAME, equating to around 27,341 staff. 

Ms Dunn continued: “COVID-19 has brought out the best in nursing staff and I’m immensely proud to have heard of the stories and bravery of nurses who selflessly got us through the worst of this pandemic.  However, the BAME workforce makes up a good part of the region's NHS team and I am shocked that a profession, which is continuously under pressure and has demonstrated it’s worth in recent times, can tolerate and uphold such poor behaviours.  It is clear COVID-19 has also brought out the worst in some.    

"The reluctance to tackle these problems head on also sends an appalling message to nursing staff overseas who employers are keen to recruit to fill the tens of thousands of vacancies that persist in health and care services. 

“This report and the Nursing Narratives study has demonstrated that as a profession, there are some significant strides to take 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 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.”

The full regional WRES data which provides a breakdown per NHS Trust and the overarching report can be accessed at: NHS England » Workforce Race Equality Standard 2021


Page last updated - 11/04/2022