Unions say more must be done to improve the experience of BME staff in the NHS

Unions have said more must be done to improve the the experience of Black and minority ethnic staff working in the NHS.

The 2021 Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) report was published yesterday, revealing the number BME staff experiencing discrimination from colleagues has risen since 2020 and a third of staff believe their trust doesn’t provide equal opportunities for career progression or promotion for BME staff – the lowest percentage recorded since the WRES report was established in 2016.

RCM’s executive director, trade union, Suzanne Tyler said: “The number of Black and Minority ethnic staff who experience discrimination in their workplace is at its highest level since 2015. We must all work together to root out discrimination and inequality, urgently and wherever we find it.

“Significant inequalities not only still exist but they are directly affecting the health, wellbeing and safety of midwives, maternity support workers and other NHS staff. The system is part of the problem and ending discrimination must focus on individual and organisational change.”

The union says numerous reports have identified that Black, Asian and minority ethnic NHS staff are more likely to go through disciplinary processes, either locally or through a regulator. As part of the RCM’s Race Matters programme, it has recently sought the views of its own Black, Asian and minority ethnic members who have been through or are going through disciplinary or capability proceedings, and from RCM workplace representatives supporting them.

The RCM says the survey findings will be used to inform and strengthen its work on supporting its members through disciplinary proceedings and the inequalities they face in maternity services.

Suzanne Tyler said: “We really wanted to hear the stories from our members who have experienced or are experiencing racism and discrimination, to help highlight what the statistics feel like in reality. We believe it’s crucial to look behind the data in this WRES report and countless others if we are to really make a positive change for maternity staff experiences who are experiencing inequality and discrimination in the workplace.

“Information gathered from our survey will also support the in raising the issues affecting our members locally at Trust level and nationally through our race equality work. Why should it be that at Black, Asian and minority ethnic midwives and MSWs face higher levels of bullying, harassment and abuse faced by these staff, and have fewer opportunities to progress in their careers? That has to change.”

UNISON deputy head of health Helga Pile said: “While it’s good to see NHS staff better reflect the communities served by their hospitals, unfortunately the picture isn’t quite so rosy ​when it comes to their experiences at work.

“White applicants are still more likely to be appointed than black job seekers. Black staff are more likely to be disciplined and experience bullying or harassment from patients and other staff. They’re also nearly three times more likely to have suffered discrimination at work from their managers ​and colleagues.

“Working in the NHS can still be a hostile and damaging experience for many black health workers. It’s beyond intolerable for this still to be the case in 2022.

“Too many black staff don’t have the career chances on offer to others and often nothing is done about the racism they face daily. These serious issues must be tackled head-on as a matter of urgency. Otherwise, the NHS will continue to shed experienced staff it can ill afford to lose.”

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