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NHS sees highest rate of discrimination against Black and ethnic minority staff since 2016


By Jess Hacker
11 April 2022

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Nearly one-in-five Black and minority ethnic staff experienced discrimination at work from a manager or colleague in 2021, NHS England has reported.

According to the annual Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) report, the number has jumped from 14% in 2016, when the first WRES report was published, to 16.7% in 2021.

By comparison, only 6.2% of white NHS staff reported experiencing discrimination from a manager or colleague, remaining relatively consistent over the last five years (6.1%).

It follows a recent Nuffield Trust report which highlighted that inequality among NHS staff was ‘getting worse’ and is standing in the way of its ability to find and retain its workforce.

The WRES report also flagged that more than a third (35.3%) of staff from a Black background, but who are not African or Caribbean, reported bullying or experiencing harassment from other staff in the last 12 months.

And nearly half (43.5%) of staff from a Gypsy or Irish Traveller background experienced harassment or abuse from patients or members of the public over the last year.

It also revealed that as of March 2021, 22.4% (309,532) of staff working in NHS trusts in England were from a Black and minority ethnic background, up from 19.1% in 2018.

The NHS Confederation said that the report reveals the ‘gulf’ between the NHS’ commitment towards workforce race equality and the reality.

Responding to the report, Joan Saddler OBE, director of partnerships and equality at the NHS Confederation, said: ‘NHS staff have been our lifeline throughout the pandemic and have worked tirelessly for the last two years, yet we know their heroic efforts have really taken their toll, particularly on BME staff.

‘This report is honest in highlighting the systemic barriers to achieving race equality that still exist across the NHS. Concerted action rather than warm words is needed and if these numbers remain static or worse still decline it is BME staff who will continue to bear the brunt of inaction.’

She urged NHS England to now publish its race equality strategy for the health service, and to ensure it focuses on changing the ‘power relationships that determine the distribution of NHS jobs’ and resources.

Last month, the Government confirmed it will review NHS England’s ethnicity pay gap in a bid to close the disparity in wages between staff from different ethnic groups.

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