Black midwives in London make up a disproportionate number of those facing disciplinary proceedings.
A report by the Royal College of Midwives has exposed what it has called a “very serious issue” and has called for an investigation and closer working among authorities in the capital.
The RCM has obtained figures from NHS trusts in London showing that while black and black British midwives make up only 32% of the workforce in London, they accounted for 60% of those facing disciplinary proceedings in the 12 months to June 2011.
In a report published this week, the RCM said it carried out the study after research and anecdotal reports suggested there was a problem in London.
The report, Midwives and Disciplinary Proceedings in London, also found harsher penalties for ethnic minorities. There were 10 midwives dismissed in the 12 months up to June 2011, all of them black.
Around 15% of these midwives who were investigated were subsequently dismissed. Around a third of black and ethnic minority midwives were suspended compared with 17% of white midwives.
There were a total of 4,217 midwives in London during the 12 months with 108 facing disciplinary procedures. A total of 65 black or black British were investigated compared to 29 white midwives.
Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the RCM, said: “These results and the other research in this area are a real cause for concern. The first step is knowing it is happening and we have the evidence for that.
“The pressing need now is to work with the trusts to find out why this is happening and find solutions.”
Shadow health minister Diane Abbot said: “These findings are very worrying and we need to find out why it’s happening. There needs to be an investigation.”
A spokesman for NHS London said it welcomed the report and would be “looking very closely at the data collated.”
They added: “NHS London had been in discussions with the RCM before this report to look at anecdotal evidence about the number of midwives from a BME background that were subject to disciplinary processes. We will be continuing to work with the RCM.”
The disproportionate involvement of ethnic minorities in NHS disciplinary proceedings was highlighted in March 2010 by the University of Bradford.
It found that black and minority ethnic staff were almost twice as likely to be disciplined in comparison with their white counterparts.
Information supplied to HSJ