New NHS workforce survey finds major improvement needed on BME discrimination

White shortlisted job applicants are up to three times more likely to be appointed than black and minority ethnic (BME) applicants in six major NHS organisations and are more likely to report harassment, bullying or abuse from colleagues in four, according to a report.

The six bodies which oversee the NHS in England – NHS England, NHS Improvement, NHS Digital, Health Education England (HEE), Public Health England (PHE) and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) – all submitted data for the NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) report.

BME staff in four of the six organisations were relatively more likely to enter the formal disciplinary process compared with white staff – in one they were more than twice as likely – while they were found to be over-represented in low grades and under-represented at senior levels.

The report also showed that BME staff are less likely than white staff to report that their organisation provides equal opportunities for career progression or promotion.

BME staff are also more likely to report having personally experienced discrimination at work from a manager, team leader or colleague, compared with their white counterparts.

It found one organisation has two BME members out of the 16 directors on its management committee, but there were no BME executive board members in any of the other five bodies.

NHS England said the report suggests much work is needed to improve workforce race equality across the national healthcare bodies.

It said the report, which assessed employees’ own stated experiences of discrimination and unfair treatment at work, is one of the most comprehensive assessments of the experience of BME people working anywhere in the public sector.

NHS chief executive Simon Stevens (pictured) said: “Making the health service in England a fairer place to work is good for our patients and good for our staff.

“That’s why an honest assessment of the status quo is important in both catalysing change and then enabling national and local bodies across the NHS to track much-needed improvements across the board.”

Yvonne Coghill, WRES director at NHS England, said: “Although the NHS is for the majority of our staff a positive place to work, there’s no doubt that many people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds do not feel they are treated fairly.

“Each of the six national organisations and every local care provider has a responsibility to take seriously these findings and the issues that have been raised by our staff.

“Fifty race equality experts are being trained to help senior leaders across the NHS to take positive, practical action to make our health service a fairer place to work.”

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