Our treasured NHS is probably the last place you would expect to find a culture of racial discrimination against ethnic minorities. Sadly though, an unsettling report has exposed a worrying lack of career progression and opportunities for black and minority ethnic (BAME) employees within the health sector.
The findings show that despite 41 per cent of London NHS workers are from BAME backgrounds, a mere 8 per cent of trust board members and a paltry 2.5 per cent of chief executive posts are held by BAME workers. This is particularly shocking given that these numbers have fallen in recent years – from 9.6 per cent and 5.3 per cent respectively.
The report also highlights that the likelihood of white staff working in senior management positions is currently three times higher than for BAME workers.This is reflected nationwide and in some NHS bodies fair representation is non-existent.
“Unite is deeply concerned at the finding of the report and the impact it has had on our members in the health service,” Harish Patel, acting national BAME officer for Unite, commented.
Studies have shown that there is a correlation between discrimination against BAME staff in the NHS and patient satisfaction ratings. Where employees reported lower levels of discrimination, patients were more likely to have confidence in the staff.
There is also discrimination in exams and assessments, particularly against workers from overseas. BAME workers are four times as likely to fail clinical skills tests due to “subjective bias due to racial discrimination”.
In response, the equality and diversity council (EDC) announced that it will be taking positive action to improve the equal opportunities for black and minority ethnic (BAME) employees.
They have pledged to implement two new measures to eradicate racial inequality in the NHS and ensure that BAME workers have equal access to career opportunities.
Firstly, organisations employing NHS workers will have to demonstrate progress in terms of racial equality, specifically regarding the low levels of BAME representation on boards. Failure to do this will lead to organisations facing contractual consequences.
Additionally, the NHS will consider whether the equality delivery system (EDS2) should become mandatory. EDS2 is currently voluntarily used across the NHS to help organisations deliver better service to local communities and improve their performance for people who are covered by the equalities act 2010.
Harish Patel said of the new measures, “We welcome the announcement of the NHS equality and diversity council to take positive action to tackle discrimination and will ensure that the EDC will work with unions to ensure that positive action materialises into long term sustainable resolutions.”
These shocking findings expose a fundamental flaw in our health service that must be rectified if we are to save and restore it as the pride of Britain it once was. Hopefully the EDC measures will help the NHS to strive to fairly represent BAME employees and end race discrimination, for the wellbeing of both workers and patients.
Unite member Elliot Browne, pictured with his wife Paulette, won his case at an employment tribunal after being treated differently to white colleagues, in January 2012. Unite called for immediate action to root out institutional racism in the NHS.