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Race equality in NHS slowly improving

Report shows more BME nurses reaching higher pay bands

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 20 April 2017

The NHS’s record on race equality is improving slowly although numbers of black and minority ethnic (BME) nurses reporting discrimination is almost static, according to the latest official figures from the NHS Equality and Diversity Council.

The newly published second annual NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) report sets out progress on race equality standards for all NHS trusts in England.

The WRES report publishes data from providers of NHS-funded care, including the voluntary and private sector, to demonstrate how they are addressing equality issues.

It shows that:

  • BME nurses in pay bands 6 – 9 (above the band 5 entry level) increased by 4,187 between 2014 and 2016.
  • BME staff remain significantly more likely to experience discrimination at work from colleagues and managers, although the percentage of BME staff reporting that they had personally experienced discrimination at work from staff in the last 12 months fell slightly from 15% in 2014 to 14% in 2015.
  • BME staff remain less likely than white staff to believe that their trust provides equal opportunities for career progression, but the gap between white and BME staff on this indicator fell from 14.5% in 2014 to 12.6% in 2015.

The report also found that white and BME staff were equally likely to experience harassment, bullying or abuse from patients, relatives and members of the public in the last 12 months.

At management level, very senior managers from BME backgrounds increased by 4% during 2015 -16, resulting in an additional nine appointments.

At the same time, BME representation at executive board and very senior manager level remained significantly lower across workforce and in the local communities served.

This year’s report includes, for the first time, data covering nine WRES indicators including four relating to the workplace covering recruitment, promotion, career progression and staff development alongside BME board representation.

The remaining indicators are based on data from the NHS staff survey 2016, covering harassment, bullying or abuse from patients, relatives or the public.

Joan Saddler, co-chair of the NHS Equality and Diversity Council and associate director at the NHS Confederation, said: “The report gives detailed baseline data about workforce race equality in specific organisations and we want to thank those organisations that are progressing well.

“The evidence also points to BME staff suffering in silence as they are absent at leadership levels or bullied disproportionately to the rest of the workforce. This is not acceptable and providers of NHS services and system partners need to improve in a planned and sustained way.

“This report is a timely tool for leaders and workers on the frontline grappling with how to deliver person-centred care in an increasingly complex environment.”

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, and co-chair of the NHS Equality and Diversity Council said: “For the first time we have a full national picture of how equality standards are beginning to take effect, with some early signs of progress, and some organisations clearly showing what is possible.

“But no one should yet be comfortable or satisfied with what these figures show overall, and many employers still have much to do before the NHS can declare mission accomplished on this critical agenda.”

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