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Report suggests non-white applicants miss out on NHS jobs


Black and minority ethnic applicants are discriminated against in NHS recruitment processes, the author of a new report has claimed.

People from black and minority ethnic backgrounds are less likely to be shortlisted for, or appointed to, NHS posts than their white counterparts, according to findings from a report written by Roger Kline, co-director of the pressure group Patients First, and shared with Nursing Times.

He analysed recruitment data from 30 trusts for the past three years. He found the likelihood of white applicants being appointed was more than three times greater than that of BME applicants, and the likelihood of white shortlisted applicants being appointed was nearly twice that of BME applicants.

Mr Kline said his findings were broadly in line with previous research, including a study undertaken in 2008 by the South East BME Network – suggesting the problem had persisted despite a number of government initiatives designed to stamp out discrimination.

Writing in the report, published by consultants Public World, he said: “The largest single government employer appears to continue to significantly discriminate against BME staff at both shortlisting and appointment stages.

“More of the same will not be good enough. There is a cost to the NHS in terms of talent not appointed and to patients deprived of care by that talent.”

He added: “We need to find out what is going on, why it is going on, and what can be done about it, so that the NHS workforce is as good as it can be and at all levels reflects the population it serves.”

Gill Bellord, director of employment relations and reward at the NHS Employers organisation, said: “We must recruit people to the NHS with the right skills and values. It is therefore important that that recruitment processes are both fair and seen to be fair.

“The concern we have, which is made in this new report, is that change needs to happen more quickly and more widely. The challenge for the NHS is to address why organisations are slow to reduce discrimination,” she said.

“Discrimination is completely unacceptable in any NHS organisation. Where it does occur, it’s vital to support those who are affected and address the underlying causes.”

Wendy Irwin, diversity and equalities co-ordinator at the Royal College of Nursing, said the new research “echoed” feedback received from RCN members. “We ask employers to take concerted action to resolve this,” she told Nursing Times.

She highlighted that the RCN had begun a new three-year project this month titled “Is that discrimination?” aimed at eliminating unlawful discrimination at work.


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Readers' comments (58)

  • Bearing in mind that there are 166 Acute NHS Trusts, 12 Ambulance Trusts and 58 Mental Health Trusts in England alone, 12% is a very small sample to make such sweeping statements.

    I know its fashionable for everything to be racist or sexist and for everyone to be outraged at the NHS, but could it be that the non-BME i.e. indigenous candidates had essential attributes like being able to speak and write in fluent English which some BME candidates lacked?

    The creed or colour of NHS employees, I suggest, is not the concern of most patients, but their skills and ability to speak fluent English is.

    You always need to look beyond naked figures!

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  • Brendan Martin

    But the report says even shortlisted white applicants were nearly twice as likely to be appointed as shortlisted black applicants. So basic qualifications for the job cannot explain that difference, because all shortlisted applicants must have met the basic qualifications for the post.

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  • Anonymous | 4-Jun-2013 12:51 pm

    You write:

    Bearing in mind that there are 166 Acute NHS Trusts, 12 Ambulance Trusts and 58 Mental Health Trusts in England alone, 12% is a very small sample to make such sweeping statements.

    in fact I randomly searched 60 Trust web sites (as you'll see in the report) and only 30 had useable data. That says something itself.

    Moreover the results were similar to a much larger survey by Health Service Journal in 2008 - in fact these results are worse but I have discounted that just in case the sample was too small.

    I have no doubt whatsoever that these are representative figures. Feel free to choose another 60 and see what you find. In any case the NHS England figures are fully comprehensive and they are even worse - and they are supposed to lead on this issue.

    When presented with uncomfortable or unexpected data, it is good to check the data, but all I am saying is that suggests there is a problem we need to take very seriously.

    Please lets not get into an HMSR type scenario where instead of accepting that this data alerts us to a problem, we risk denying the problem pending further research.

    I hope my work will prompt more research but even more importantly I hope it will prompt some serious response. We have a major problem. Let's tackle it

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  • There is always the reality beyond the statistics. Trying to justify racism by objectifying the subjective as the first response does is not helpful. Racism has curtailed successful career pathways for many BME staff. We blacks know its there. I am supervised by people I taught. Many make remarks about my failure to progress up the ranks. I have three degrees so can speak English etc. We blacks accept we are victims of overt discrimination as the second writer suggests. Even when all things are equal we have the colour visibility. I have always resisted being a token person. I have worked for NHS since 1974. I am competent and able but for many colleagues black people are seen as just passing through. Junior members of staff try to usurp your authority.So now I do work under my job description and refuse to do any other work that white colleagues are paid for but that they would be quite happy to delegate to me. I like my work but draw a line in the sand about exploitation. I am not prepared to do what other blacks have done, work twice as much to get promoted. I am too proud to enslave myself. The discrimination has resulted in a loss of goodwill from BME staff and who can blame them??Discrimination is ubiquitous and some of us had faith in the single equality act to make equality a reality for everyone- just a pipe dream.

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  • I am about to qualify as a mental health nurse at the end of June. I am of Caribbean descent. My written English is very good as is my spoken English, I have applied for many Band 5 posts here in the North West as due to being a mum I cannot simply relocate.

    Most of my English counterparts from my class have already gotten jobs ready for when they graduate.

    My self and another lady who is of African origin (both mental health nurse branch) have yet to get even an offer or a reply to say whether or not we have an interview.

    Due to the volume of applications and no replies from those I have applied to I have decided to be my own boss. I feel very happy with my decision but I know the NHS has missed out on a very good nurse.

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  • I have interviewed many black nurses and have appointed most. I have turned down a white nurse who spoke about how dirty aborigines are as I didn't sense that she would work well with ethnic minorities. I also believe there is some racism.

    However, I would also say that I have worked in a largely West Indian run hospital where Asians were given a torrid time, and where I was told to go and sit by myself as the only white nurse on shift.

    BME staff may suffer - but can also be racists themselves.

    I think we also need to adjust for other reasons such as most middle class BME people looking for jobs other than nursing, whilst white middle class staff are common. Like it or lump it middle class candidates are often better at self presentation.

    I hope we will reach full equality but do not just compare skin colour...look at age, religion, culture and education as well as class. For example does a working class Rumanian nurse with poor English have a better chance than a black nurse?

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  • Is there a problem with non-British ethnic minorities getting jobs or does this also include black and Asian nurses who were born in Britain as well? I am a bit confused!

    I was born and raised in Britain and am going to be starting a child nursing degree in September. It does frighten me that I could be discriminated against on placements and in future job searches simply because of my skin color!

    This country is multicultural and as such, the workforce should represent this diversity. Nurses and students should be judged simply on academics and their ability to care not their skin color or background.

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  • Anonymous | 4-Jun-2013 6:29 pm

    There's no problem at all, this 'report' only looked at 12% of NHS Trusts so it's hardly representative of the NHS in England as a whole, so you do your training and I'm sure you'll get a job at the end of your course.

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  • I am on my first year yet but been to two placement places and I have seen enough to agree with this report. I think it is a disgraceful that on the 21 century we are still talking about this subject.

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  • Anonymous | 4-Jun-2013 7:19 pm

    "There's no problem at all...."

    Any evidence to support that? I very much doubt that you have.

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