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Employers urged to tackle 'institutional racism' against nurses in the capital


London is now the only region in England to have a majority black and minority ethnic (BAME) nursing workforce, it has been revealed.

New data analysis from the Royal College of Nursing’s London branch shows that 27,962 nurses and health visitors from a BAME background are working in the city’s NHS, compared to 24,847 white.

“For too long employers and the wider system have tried to sweep it under the carpet”

Mark Farmer

In light of the fresh findings, leaders from the RCN branch are today warning employers in the capital to get serious about racial equality in their workplaces.

They claim London is trailing far behind other regions on the Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) – a national set of metrics that measure race equality in the health service.

In 2017, London was the worst performing in England across seven of the nine WRES indicators, according to the college. These include:

  • The overall proportion of BAME staff in senior positions in NHS organisations is the lowest in London;
  • White staff in London are 1.81 times more likely to be appointed from a shortlist than BAME colleagues;
  • BAME staff in London are 1.8 times more likely to enter a disciplinary process than white staff;
  • 30% of London’s BAME staff record experiencing bullying and harassment from public in previous twelve months;
  • 29% of London’s BAME staff record experiencing bullying and harassment from staff;
  • 69% of London’s BME staff feel their trust provides equal opportunities for career progression;
  • 15% of London’s BAME staff experience discrimination at work.

Figures obtained by RCN London also revealed large variations among trusts in the capital in terms of the diversity in their nursing workforce.

For example, 82% of nursing staff at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust and 80% at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust are white.

This contrasts with a 24% white nurse workforce at the North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust and 26% at London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust.

The data shows 20 out of 36 NHS trusts in London are sitting in the 40-60% range.

RCN has released the figures to coincide with Black History Month.

Mark Farmer, operational manager at RCN London, said: “We have time and time again called on trusts and the health service in London to properly take notice and address the institutional racism that our members see and experience every day at work.

“For too long employers and the wider system have tried to sweep it under the carpet and dismiss the issue of racism, because they believe it only effects a minority of staff – our analysis now blows that out of the water,” he said.

“They believe it only effects a minority of staff – our analysis now blows that out of the water”

Mark Farmer

Mr Farmer said the BAME nursing workforce in London were “integral” to the NHS, but they faced “discrimination, bullying and are continually shown a lack of respect”.

He added that BAME nurses were denied the same opportunities available to their white colleagues.

“NHS leaders, in Black History Month, now have an opportunity to show that they are willing to take responsibility for this rotten culture and embrace inclusion at all levels,” said Mr Farmer. “Anything less is a dereliction of duty.”

RCN London is today holding a Black History Month celebration at University College London Hospitals.

The event will include an awards ceremony honouring 25 “rising stars” from the BAME nursing community who have made an outstanding contribution to health care in the capital.

Regional chief nurse for the London region, Oliver Shanley, said: “Through the work of the WRES team, the NHS in London is committed to tackling race discrimination and striving towards an NHS where the talents and experiences of this large section of the workforce are valued and developed, not least for the sake of patients.” 

He added: ”Since 2015, there have been significant improvements and there are many trusts in London that are now doing well, but we recognise the need to continue improve BME representation, especially at senior leadership levels.”




Readers' comments (3)

  • I have been in the NHS for 20 years , the headlines remain the same but nothing changes. Senior Leadership in some of these organisations do not reflect the staff that work on the shop floor. I despair of anything changing before I leave the profession.

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  • I don’t think there will be any changes to this. I qualified last year, started working on a ward in a London hospital, the majority of the black nurses were not supported to grow in their career even though they have worked there for years. The support for them to develop was completely zero, but the white nurses were given every support to develop and grab positions, the height of it is bringing staff from other ward to manage the staff just because most of the old staff were BME staff. It was sickening and I decided to transfer to a different ward where I can see that BME staff were supported to grow as I know that if I continue to stay on that ward, I will definitely sue the trust for institutional racism or the trust even end on the media, so I prefer to leave, than addressing it, which I will end up being victimised to raising a concern that was so obvious and none of the BME staff wants to speak up. It is a shame that NHS of all organisations is operating in such manner.

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  • Having read your article I am dismayed but not surprise - do I think the situation is likely to change in my professional career? No I don't think so the racism which exists is present in the very foundation and forms the core of nearly every hospital within the National Health Service and beyond. If you talk to any health professional from the BAME we know it exists and are aware of it every day of our working lives. It is for the Government to ensure that this imbalance is addressed, but will they??? I think not

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