Of course, it's not a revelation that the NHS has long struggled with serious issues of institutional racism. The pandemic has just sharpened our focus on the injustices caused by decades of bias against ethnic minority groups. Ethnic minority staff are under-represented at senior levels of the NHS, they are more likely than their white colleagues to report experiencing discrimination and bullying, harassment and abuse at work. More ethnic minority doctors are referred by their employers to the General Medical Council for fitness to practice reviews than white doctors. It is already known that ethnic minority staff often feel uncomfortable about challenging management decisions or speaking up when they have concerns about patient or staff safety. There is some emerging evidence that during the pandemic they have been more likely to feel pressured to work in settings without adequate personal protective equipment and that discrimination may have played a role in them being more likely to be deployed in roles with a higher potential exposure to the virus. Serious consideration must be given to whether these factors have contributed to the apparent higher mortality rate among ethnic minority health care staff.
Perhaps what the statistics don’t reflect is what the daily lived experience of ethnic minority staff is like at an individual level. Today we’re sharing the stories of 12 NHS staff from different ethnic minority backgrounds told in their own words. They told us they do not feel they have equal opportunities to progress in their careers, that they have been denied developmental opportunities that appear to come readily to their white counterparts. Very few people at the most senior levels of the NHS reflect them. And, on top of that, each working day can bring a range of micro-aggressions from other colleagues.
How does this compare to your own experiences at work? Do these lived experience accounts offer a clearer sense of the processes and behaviours that shape how ethnic minority colleagues feel at work? If your answer to the latter question is ‘yes’, then what more will you do to help address these disparities? Or what’s stopping you?
Our research also explored how three NHS organisations were addressing workforce race inequalities and inclusion. The interventions put in place in our case studies included networks dedicated to ethnic minority staff and using the ‘Freedom to Speak Up Guardian’ role as a safe way for ethnic minority staff to raise concerns about bullying and discrimination without having to go through formal channels. Our report discusses the complexities of interventions like these – informed by the individuals involved in embedding them. We saw the reality of culture change; that it is neither quick nor straightforward, but also that there is potential for changing the lived experience to be more inclusive.
It’s striking that some NHS leaders are calling for these same interventions to be used to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on ethnic minority staff in the NHS . If anything will prompt change, maybe the pandemic will.
Racism and discrimination in NHS culture needs our urgent attention; we’ve seen what the very human cost of institutional racism can be. Recent events show it is not good enough to treat this issue as the thing that is too hard, too uncomfortable, too much to deal with right now – or something that ethnic minority people can sort out for themselves. We need better allyship, as exemplified by the powerful letter sent by Roisin Fallon-Williams to staff at Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust. We are tired, traumatised but hopeful about the prospects for change. There is no time like the present to look to exemplars that have already made some progress, learn from their experiences and pick up the pace.
Thanks Ann-Marie. This sounds very difficult and I'm sorry to hear about your experiences. If it's helpful, please refer to these sources of support: https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/projects/inequalities-inclusion-nhs-provid…
Most of what I have read in your article is a reflection of what I had to go through and still going through with in my trust.
For example I was asked to work in a COVID recovery ward. Even though I explained to my managers that I am a single parents and has health needs and I have a son who suffers from asthma, allergies and other health needs. I had no family support network for myself or my son. My manager did not take our health needs into consideration. It leads from one situation to another which has impacted on my health and I finds this mental exhausting.
This cause me to now have a sick records.
Miss out on the opportunity to under the School Nursing program.
I could outline a host of problems that has occurred.