Report investigates racism in the NHS

A new report by Middlesex University academics and human rights charity Brap has found that racial prejudice remains embedded in the health service despite initiatives to remove it.

NHS leaders are being urged to listen to, and act on, the concerns of their black and minority ethnic staff following the publication of the 66-page report, Too Hot To Handle: An Investigation Into Racism In The NHS.

The report, co-authored by Roger Kline, research fellow in the University’s Business School, and Prof Joy Warmington, Middlesex University Visiting Professor of Education and Brap chief executive officer, highlights the problem and the failure of healthcare organisations to provide a safe and effective means for listening to and dealing with concerns raised by BME staff.

The study found that there was a culture of avoidance, defensiveness, or minimization of the issue from their employer if they did so.

1,300 NHS staff were asked if they experienced racism and what form it took.

The results found that 71 per cent of UK-trained staff complained of race discrimination and 63 per cent said their performance or behaviour was subjected to a greater degree of scrutiny than that of white colleagues.

52.5 per cent said they had not been offered development opportunities and 53.2 per cent said they heard a colleague or patient make an assumption about someone based on their race or nationality.

A lot of respondents said that were reluctant to challenge experiences of racism, with
the most common reason for this being that they did not believe anything would change.

Roger Kline said: "Our report found that BME staff still face serious challenges in raising complaints of racism and this has an impact on staff morale, progression and recruitment, and potentially on patient care if staff feel under-valued and badly treated.

“In the NHS, where a quarter of staff have BME heritage and a significant proportion of patients do too, this is not a marginal issue and nor is it a new one.”

The research was prompted by several recent NHS employment tribunal race discrimination cases, most notably that won by senior nurse Michelle Cox. The investigation draws on lessons from those tribunals and evidence from the survey.