A lack of black and minority ethnic nurses in leadership roles is “wrong” and fails to reflect the diversity of people that the health sector workforce serves, England’s chief nursing officer has said.
As part of her keynote speech yesterday at the CNO’s annual summit in Manchester, Jane Cummings urged nurses to lead the way in encouraging greater diversity among staff.
“It is wrong that we have got so few directors of nursing, chief executives, chairs and non-executive directors from BME backgrounds”
She also revealed that NHS England was developing quality standards for employers, to be introduced next year, which would ensure health organisations have workforces – including senior teams – that better reflect society’s ethnic diversity.
She said: “What we do at the moment is simply not acceptable – it is wrong that we have got so few directors of nursing, chief executives, chairs and non-executive directors from BME backgrounds. It doesn’t reflect the society we serve and it doesn’t reflect our staff grouping.
“We are determined to do something and I look to you as leaders to help us to deliver that,” she said.
In a later session at the CNO summit, research fellow and director of campaigning group Patients First Roger Kline claimed the NHS currently failed to fully address racial discrimination within the service.
He said: “The evidence is that for the 20% of the NHS workforce – and the 20% of midwives and nurses – who have a black and minority ethnic background, their treatment is less favourable on the whole than that of white staff and it is a challenge that the NHS has to some degree failed to deal with and it is one that we must deal with.”
Mr Kline said that “unequivocal” evidence had shown it was more likely that white staff would be appointed to a role from shortlisting than those from BME backgrounds and that it took longer for BME nursing and midwifery graduates to secure their first jobs than their white peers.
Joan Myers, nurse consultant for children and young people at North East London NHS Foundation Trust, said the diversity of the NHS workforce needed to be celebrated and embraced.
“We have a very large BME workforce that the NHS hasn’t been commended for” she said.
However, Ms Myers – who is also chair of the CNO BME advisory group – said it was important to have more diverse staff in senior positions, not only to benefit staff engagement but because it would improve outcomes for BME patients who may present with different symptoms to white people.
“If you have diversity at different levels you are able to embrace the diverse population that we serve and can provide important care for all patents, not just a few,” she added.