BME nurses still face uphill struggle for equality

Figures show Black and Minority Ethnic Nurses are facing an ongoing uphill struggle for equality. Progress is being made to […]

James McKay
13 December 2017

Figures show Black and Minority Ethnic Nurses are facing an ongoing uphill struggle for equality.

Progress is being made to reduce discrimination against Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Nurses but official figures show they are facing an uphill struggle for equality, the Royal College of Nursing has said.


The RCN voiced its concern following today’s NHS England Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) report which shows:

  • One in every five nurses and midwives are from a BME background but they remain significantly underrepresented at senior manager levels and at higher pay bands.
  • White shortlisted job applicants are 1.60 times more likely to be appointed than BME shortlisted applicants.  A recent survey of 1,200 UK employees by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development also found that one in five BME employees said discrimination had played a part in a lack of career progression to date.
  • BME staff are 1.37 times more likely to enter the formal disciplinary process in comparison to white staff. This is an improvement on the 2016 figure of 1.56 but research published by the Nursing and Midwifery Council in April shows that BME nurses and midwives are more likely to be referred to Fitness to Practice cases than their white colleagues.
  • Compared to other regions, BME staff in London were more likely to experience bullying and harassment, disciplinary proceedings, and the least likely to hold senior posts, despite the region having the largest BME workforce.

The report also highlights NHS Trusts which performed well against WRES indicators. A select group of these Trusts are currently working with the RCN Cultural Ambassador Programme. To address the imbalance between the experiences of NHS England nurses, the RCN programme works directly with employers to tackle racism and improve performance against specific WRES metrics.

To identify and challenge instances of discrimination, the project places a specially trained member of staff from a BME background onto investigations and disciplinary panels where a BME member of staff is involved. In the West Midlands, where the programme was first implemented, there has been a reduction in the level of sanctions and investigations involving BME staff.

Tom Sandford, England Director of the Royal College of Nursing, said:


“There can be no room for racism across the health and social care sector and certainly no place for it within the nursing profession.

“This report is further evidence of the damaging impact of discrimination on the careers of BME nurses and healthcare support workers. Across England they have less chance of being shortlisted, accessing career development training and are more likely to be formally disciplined than their white colleagues. It’s also clear they are facing a postcode lottery and are experiencing poorer outcomes in the capital. That’s why the RCN is investing in the London Inclusion Solution to tackle the burgeoning workforce inequality in London.

“BME staff are facing a slow uphill struggle for equal access to career opportunities and to be treated fairly in the workplace. This makes the work of the RCN’s Cultural Ambassador Programme even more important for promoting equality and inclusion for all NHS staff.

“When there is racial inequality in the workplace it can affect patient care – it is now time for employers to take robust action to address this systemic problem across the sector.”


You can access the full report on the NHS England website.

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