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Landmark race discrimination case 'must drive change' says RCN as NHS England apologises to senior nurse

3 Mar 2023

A judge found Michelle Cox was treated unfavourably by her employer because of her race.

discrimination and law book with scales next to it NHS England (NHSE) has today (3 March) written to senior nurse Michelle saying, “I sincerely apologise to you for what you were put through and I am grateful for your courage and resilience in speaking up about practice that was inappropriate and discriminatory.”

In the letter NHSE Chief Executive Amanda Pritchard states she is wholly committed to ensuring that NHSE “learns from and acts on the failings”.

In light of the apology and NHSE’s offer to engage, Michelle will be seeking a meeting with Amanda to discuss the outcome of her case so it can act as a driver for change.

This comes after Michelle won a landmark race discrimination case against the NHS in which the judge heard evidence that she faced racial discrimination, harassment and victimisation by her employer. The tribunal unanimously found in her favour.

Michelle has previously said the case “sadly proves that institutional racism is still present in organisations, despite efforts to make it more inclusive for people of all races and backgrounds”.

Michelle was supported by the RCN’s legal team at the tribunal.

RCN Director for England, Patricia Marquis, said: “This outcome must drive change – racial discrimination should never be acceptable or tolerated and must be rooted out.

“While this case – and what Michelle has been subjected to – is shocking, it’s sadly not uncommon. Our minority ethnic colleagues are still facing race discrimination each and every day.

“Minority ethnic staff are substantially less likely to be shortlisted for jobs, more likely to face disciplinary action, and more likely to report harassment, bullying and abuse from patients, than their White colleagues.

“There can be no space for racism in the NHS and, as Michelle has said, I hope this landmark case encourages anyone facing similar behaviour in the workplace to have the courage to speak up.”

Last year, the RCN released figures showing racism is endemic in health and care with White nurses twice as likely to get promoted than Black and Asian staff.

Recent NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard figures also show there is still significant distance to travel in improving the lived experience of minority ethnic staff in the NHS.

Page last updated - 01/08/2023