BME nurses underrepresented at top of career ladder

Written by: Mimi Launder
Published on: 24 Feb 2020

Nurses from a black and minority ethnic (BME) background are underrepresented at top pay bands and more likely to face discrimination than their white colleagues, the latest national data has revealed. 

The Workplace Racial Equality Standard (WRES) report for 2019, published last week by NHS England, showed that BME nurses in England are over-represented at AfC band 5 but under-represented across all other pay bands.  

The research found that 21.8% of nurses, health visitors and midwives are from a BME background, but BME nurses make up just 4% and 4.2% of band 8d and band 9 posts respectively.  

At band 8d, the second highest band, there were four less BME nurses, health visitors and midwives in 2019, compared to an extra 63 who are white. 

‘Increasing BME staff in the talent pipeline across all pay bands is key,’ noted the report. 

At the lowest tier, band 5, the number of BME nurses increased by 3,064, but the number of white nurses at the same band dropped by 3,064. 

There was an increase in BME directors of nursing in England across 227 NHS trusts, up from eight in 2018 to 10 in 2019.  

Bullying, harassment and discrimination  

BME nurses are also the most likely of all staff groups to experience discrimination and abuse from colleagues and managers, according to the report. 

Nearly one in five (17.1%) of BME nurses said they were discriminated against by other staff, while 6.3% of white nurses said the same. 

Likewise, nearly a third (31.2%) of BME nurses reported harassment, bullying and abuse from staff, compared to 26.3% of white nurses.  

Commenting on the data, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing Dame Donna Kinnair, said ‘real strides’ had been taken to increase the representation of NHS boards.  

However, the changes ‘must quicken’, she added.

Overall, 8.4% of board members in NHS trusts were from a BME background, an increase from 7.4% in 2018.  

In London, every trust now has at least one BME board member - a significant improvement from 2014 where two-fifths of trusts had none.  

Dame Donna continued: ‘BME nurses, who just want to go to work and get on with their job, are reporting a year-on-year increase in the amounts of bullying, harassment and discrimination from patients, managers or colleagues. 

‘Research indicates there is a link between harmful cultures and the safety of patients, so resolving these issues must not be allowed to wait. It is the right thing to do both by the individual professionals and their patients and plays a direct role in safely staffing England’s health service.’ 

WRES director at NHS England and NHS Improvement Yvonne Coghill said the report shows the ‘enormous work that has been done’ but what ‘we need to do more to become a fully inclusive, equitable and fair employer.’ 

The annual WRES data report measures the experience and opportunities of BME and white people working in the NHS using nine key indicators. 

The report said the WRES programme will now focus on identifying NHS trusts requiring most guidance on workplace culture. 

To help increase BME representation at senior levels, NHS England and NHS Improvement have also said they are undertaking work to push through the ‘BME talent pipeline’. 

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