Rise in reported racial discrimination in the NHS a disgrace, says RCN

16 Jan 2019

The RCN calls for improved treatment and representation of BME staff, following release of the Workforce Race Equality Standard report by NHS England.

A group of nurses stand in a hospital ward and listen as another nurse speaks to them

Reported discrimination towards staff from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds has risen from 13.8% to 15% in the last 12 months, according to the latest Workforce Race Equality Standard report from NHS England. In contrast, just 6.6% of white staff reported discrimination at work.

“The rise in reported discrimination towards BME staff is truly appalling, and shows just how far we have yet to go,” said Professor Dame Donna Kinnair, Acting Chief Executive of the RCN. “It is a disgrace that BME staff experience racism, lower pay, harassment and limited career progression within our health service.”

The RCN has also called for efforts to increase the number of BME leaders within the NHS. BME staff make up 19.1% of the NHS workforce, yet the proportion in very senior manager positions is only 6.9%. Across the 231 NHS trusts in England, there were just eight BME executive directors of nursing.

“It is up to employers and policymakers, working with trade unions and other organisations, to put an end to this once and for all,” Donna said.

“A good start would be ensuring there are more BME voices at the top of the profession, yet despite modest gains highlighted since last year, minority voices remain grossly underrepresented in senior management positions.

“Improving career progression, and stamping out employment discrimination both overt and systemic, should be a priority.

"NHS trusts need to engage their staff and bring them into the process of resolving issues of discrimination and systemic racism in their workplaces. The RCN is willing to work with employers to make this happen.

“The Government cannot hope to increase staffing levels without the NHS embracing diversity at every level and extinguishing the damaging effects of racism on our health service.”

The RCN will hold an inclusion summit this summer to help support senior nursing leaders looking to tackle issues of racism and other forms of discrimination and inequality in the NHS and across the profession.

Page last updated - 25/06/2019