NHS must redouble efforts to ensure equality for staff

23 Jan 2019

Black and Minority Ethnic staff in the NHS in the North West are still subject to discrimination at work despite progress made by employers to address race inequality, according to the Royal College of Nursing.

The latest published indicators of performance by NHS trusts against the Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) show BME workers have worse outcomes than their white colleagues in relation to career progression, disciplinary action and other measures.

In the North West, figures show that the relative likelihood of white staff being appointed to jobs from shortlisting compared to BME staff was least likely at Southport and Ormskirk NHS Trust with only 12 per cent of BME applicants versus 38 per cent of white applicants, that’s over three times as unlikely. 

Likewise at Merseycare NHS Foundation Trust, The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust, Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust and East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, the data shows white staff are over twice as likely than BME staff to be appointed.  

Blackpool Teaching Hospitals appointed one per cent more BME staff than white in this category.

BME staff at Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust are nearly five times more likely (4.52 times), the highest in the region, to enter the formal disciplinary process compared to their white colleagues.  BME staff at the Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Wirral Community NHS Foundation Trust and Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust were over three times likely and those working at Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, St Helens and Knowsley Hospital Services NHS Trust, Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust and the Christie NHS Foundation Trust over twice as likely.

Alder Hey Children's NHS Foundation Trust and University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust fared the best with a zero per cent variance.

Nationally, discrimination towards BME staff has increased from 13.8 per cent to 15 per cent in the last 12 months. In contrast, just 6.6 per cent of white staff reported discrimination at work. BME staff make up just under 20 per cent of the NHS workforce (19.1 per cent) yet the proportion in very senior manager positions is just 6.9 per cent. Across the 231 NHS trusts in England, there were just eight BME executive directors of nursing.

RCN North West Regional Operations Manager Paul Wood, said: “There can be no room for racism across the health and social care sector and certainly no place for it within the nursing profession. 

“This report is further evidence of the damaging impact of discrimination on the careers of BME nurses and healthcare support workers. Across England they have less chance of being shortlisted, accessing career development training and are more likely to be formally disciplined than their white colleagues.

The report also highlights NHS Trusts which performed well against WRES indicators. A select group of these Trusts are currently working with the RCN Cultural Ambassador programme including the Walton Centre, the Northern Care Alliance and the Royal Liverpool Hospital. To address the imbalance between the experiences of NHS England nurses, the RCN programme works directly with employers to tackle racism and improve performance against specific WRES metrics.

To identify and challenge instances of discrimination, the project places a specially trained member of staff from a BME background onto investigations and disciplinary panels where a BME member of staff is involved.

Paul added: “BME staff are facing a slow uphill struggle for equal access to career opportunities and to be treated fairly in the workplace. This makes the work of the RCN’s Cultural Ambassador Programme even more important for promoting equality and inclusion for all NHS staff.

“When there is racial inequality in the workplace it can affect patient care – it is now time for employers to take robust action to address this systemic problem across the sector.”

There are also some fantastic examples of good practice at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust including:

  • Consultant, Mr Karnad Krishnaprasad  is now a WRES Expert having just completed a national training programme 
  • WRES progress shared with staff through posters highlighting the data, things we have done and the annual action plan developing in partnership with BME staff
  • Seven members of UHMBT staff have completed the Ready Now NHS Leadership Academy development programme for BME leaders
  • UHMBT has an established BME staff network, with an executive sponsor (Foluke Ajayi , Chief Operating Office)  
  • UHMBT’s Bullying and Harassment Joint Working Party (Chief Executive Led) – BME network involved to ensure BME colleagues are involved in developing our approach to tacking bullying, harassment and incivility.


Page last updated - 23/07/2019