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Discrimination against nurses 'more common than most other NHS staff'


NHS managers have been issued a “call to action” to tackle discrimination, as new analysis reveals nurses are among the most likely professional groups in the health service to receive this kind of treatment.

Research by the King’s Fund think-tank on behalf of NHS England found 14% of nurses experienced discrimination in 2014, following a review of the most recent annual NHS staff survey.

The only other groups with higher levels of discrimination were healthcare assistants – reported by 17% of workers – and ambulance staff, where almost a quarter said they had been treated in this way.

The ethnic background of employees was the most significant factor for discrimination among all groups of workers – which included managers, doctors and allied health professionals – apart from ambulance staff.

”This new report paints an important picture of what is happening. It represents a call to action for everyone”

Simon Stevens

Almost 9% of nurses said they had been discriminated against by patients, relatives or the public, while just over 8% said managers, team leaders or colleagues had acted in this way.

Overall, across the 255,000 staff members from 284 organisations that responded to the staff survey, 12% had experienced some form of discrimination.

Reported levels of discrimination were highest for black employees and lowest for white employees, while discrimination on the basis of faith was highest among Muslims.

Simon Stevens

Simon Stevens

Simon Stevens

The report called for more to be done to ensure the core values of the health service – including respect, dignity, compassion and inclusion – were “embod[ied] in all relationships, not only those with patients, service users and carers, but also in relationships between staff and between professional groups”.

Launching the report last week at a managers’ conference in London, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: “This new report paints an important picture of what is happening. It represents a call to action for everyone in the NHS.”

He said the new Workforce Race Equality Standard – introduced in April and which requires NHS trusts to report their treatment of black and minority ethnic staff compared with white workers – would drive improvements.

“By introducing a new workforce race equality standard, we have chosen to hold up a mirror to the NHS each year to ask how it looks and feels to the people devoting their professional lives to looking after patients and the communities we serve,” said Mr Stevens.

Recent research has found BME staff are significantly under-represented in senior management positions within the NHS and at trust board level.

A report published last year by Middlesex University research fellow Roger Kline – called The Snowy White Peaks of the NHS – found that in 2012, 1% of NHS chief executives were BME and 16% of the NHS workforce overall.


Readers' comments (8)

  • no surprise there then , nurses are expected to endure all sorts of c--p

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  • In most of the places I have worked, racial diversity has been via staff from non-western, poorer countries. Perhaps if there was a concerted effort to pay for, train, and retain home-grown staff of any race, then this might help. If patients are routinely cared for by foreign nurses, it is not a great selling point for the NHS. It points to something quite imbalanced. Patients may express their frustration inappropriately, but I have felt frustration both as staff and as a patient at not being able to understand what someone is communicating. If they were from the same place as me, whatever their race, I would tell them. If they are not from the same place as me (region, race, country) it becomes harder, as allowances are made for difference, but sometimes this may not help. I have been cared for by a foreign nurse of the same race as me, but as I working-class person, I did find her middle-class manner, accent, and the fact that she wore a mask even before we spoke - and throughout the conversation - quite a problem, as I rely on lip-reading more than most. The non-white staff were perfectly fine. Sometimes, it is complex. Sometimes people may not be prejudiced but rather have a build up of frustration from the real situation, not a bigoted pre-conception. Perhaps the NHS is rubbish at understanding the blindingly obvious - they are desperate for migrant staff because they cannot get home-grown staff in proportion to their needs. Perhaps one day those poorer countries will be a magnet for overseas employment and the NHS will have no choice but to rely on home-based people - of any race, religion, or skin colour. Maybe the NHS doesn't manage situations very well. There are some lovely people and some terrible people from all backgrounds, but they swim in the same pool together, with little relevant support.

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  • No wonder you remained anonymous with that comment. Obviously you are not aware that most nurses are educated to degree level and can articulate themselves very effectively, providing rational arguments in defending their position against managers, which in my experience, are much less qualified than most nurses. Nurses are subjected to this sort of criticism regularly by people that are actually ignorant and do not realise that nurses are actually ' health care professional's' and that the best managers in health care are 'nurse managers'.

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  • Discrimination is NOT the sole preserve of the patients, in fact, the worst discrimination I have been subjected to is from my so called erstwhile colleagues, here, there is no distinction between the professional staff (Doctors) and nurses, therefore this is not a case of intellect.

    More t the point it is either institutionally based or colleagues not confident in their abilities, this includes the Doctors. They over compensate by bullying and being racially abusive, in my experience the worst offenders are those from Asia.

    Frequently, their command of the English language oral and written is often poor, I was under the impression NON UK staff had to pass an ILETS test.

    I have 5 years medical training and hold medical degrees, I have had enough of the NHS, and will be leaving the UK in 2016.

    Until this culture bullying and oppressive culture is eradicated, the NHS will have a continuous challenge recruiting Qualified staff?

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  • "Nurses have lower educational standards than professional staff and most are incapable of rational arguments and defending their position against more the highly qualified managers".


    Some of the managers are the worst offenders, but you try reporting abuse, then, the whole weight of the Trust management and HR will descend upon you from a great height, including threats of legal action if you do not withdraw the complaint.

    The NHS is one of the most hostile environments to work in.

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  • I am a retired nurse; I was at least as well educated, if not better educated, than pretty much all of the managers I worked with; I was better able to construct an articulate, coherent, reasoned, evidence-based argument than ANY manager I worked with. This led, inevitably, to resentment, victimisation and bullying. Any attempts to report this were dealt with in the manner described in the previous post.

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  • This is a stereotype comment. Most Nurses are 1st and 2nd degree holders.

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  • As usual, the managers are held responsible for pretty much anything. But here's a piece of information for you: victimization isn't just the prerogative of the manager. I left senior management for a staff nurse post because although most of my staff were lovely, I could no longer bear the complaining and bullying attitude of the minority. It didn't matter what I did, how much I listened or how much I cared, they took little if any responsibility for their actions and blamed the management for pretty much anything they didn't like. Nurses have little concept of what it is like to be in that position and more to the point, they don't care. The point I am trying to make is that I was discriminated against as a manager by one or two staff who made it their business to make my life unpleasant. Trying to deal with them resulted in a grievance (not upheld) but the resultant mental anguish drove me away. I am now happy in a job with minimal responsibility and would never, ever work in management again.

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