Racial discrimination is rife, studies reveal, as black nurses also miss out on top NHS jobs
By Hui Shan Khoo | 27 February 2013
“It does not give the NHS the benefits that would come from having a much more diverse workforce” – Jabeer Butt, member, NHS Equality and Diversity Council
Figures released by the Royal College of Midwives reveal that 60 per cent of its members subjected to disciplinary action by the NHS were black.
Two other pieces of research have also revealed that racial discrimination is rife in the UK’s National Health Service, with black nurses missing out on the top jobs.
Jabeer Butt, a member of the NHS Equality and Diversity Council, which was set up to combat racism in the health service, described the figures as “shameful”. He told Exaro that they were “no surprise, but disappointing”.
A request by the Royal College of Midwives under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) revealed that more than 60 per cent of midwives subjected to disciplinary action in the year from June 30, 2010 were black. However, only 32 per cent of midwives in the UK are black.
According to the Royal College of Midwives, 10 midwives were dismissed, and all were black. And 34 per cent of black midwives subjected to disciplinary proceedings were suspended compared with 17 per cent of their white counterparts.
FOIA requests by the magazine, Nursing Standard, showed that at eight of 40 NHS trusts there were no nurses from ethnic minorities in the most senior positions. They also revealed that 94 per cent of nursing directors in 140 NHS trusts across England are white.
In London, more than 44 per cent of NHS employees are from ethnic minorities. But of the 31 primary care trusts, only one has a chief executive from such a background.
A study by Kingston University and St George’s, University of London, showed how ethnicity plays a significant role in whether student nurses find jobs. Those who are black Caribbean or mixed race were 40 per cent less likely than white British nurses to secure a job offer when they qualified. By comparison, nurses who are black African or mixed race were 60 per cent less likely, while those who are Asian Chinese and mixed race 70 per cent less likely.
Butt, who is also the deputy chief executive of the Race Equality Foundation, a charity that is active in social support and public services, said: “It is shameful because it has a real material impact.
“It does not give the NHS the benefits that would come from having a much more diverse workforce.”
“Several studies have highlighted that members of NHS staff continue to suffer a degree of discrimination and disadvantage. This has been demonstrated in various ways including limited access to training opportunities, lower promotion rate as well as continuing experiences of racism, often from fellow colleagues.”
Butt continued: “When we have looked at professions such as nursing and physiotherapy, we see very similar patterns.”
Rachael Maskell, head of health for the union, Unite, said: “I do not think that the NHS is really diligent on these issues. What we want is to see the NHS be proactive because not only does it have implications for the workforce, which is the largest workforce in this country, but it also has implications on the services that it provides. We would want to see all communities receiving a respectable service.
“We want the NHS to take it seriously, and not to wait until the big and costly cases arrive.”
She cited the example of Elliot Browne, a senior NHS manager who suffered a sustained campaign of racial discrimination from hospital colleagues and was last year awarded nearly £1 million in compensation.
She said: “Look at the fact that they had to shell out £1 million for Elliot Browne, and goodness knows how much in other cases. It does highlight that they have, as a part of the public sector, a responsibility to the public. It is taxpayers’ money that they are paying out because of the discrimination.”
Jane Cummings, chief nursing officer for the NHS Commissioning Board said: “Nursing leaders at all levels should be aware of the need to provide equality of access to jobs and opportunities for all staff.
“Discrimination in any form is unacceptable and illegal, and I am committed to ensuring that the nursing and midwifery workforce is as diverse as the patients.”