NHS doctor in scrubs
The report shines a light on current NHS practices that favour white staff (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

By Drew McLachlan

NHS staff from a black or minority ethnic (BME) background are more likely to face disciplinary action, and be treated less favourably than their white counterparts, a new report has found.

The Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) report paints a damning picture against current NHS practices involving BME employees, revealing that they are more likely to be bullied by colleagues and less likely to be shortlisted for senior roles.

Published yesterday (19), the findings show that managers are more likely to discipline BME staff over insignificant matters and incorrectly use disciplinary policy to address performance issues.

Across England, BME staff were found to be 1.6 times as likely to experience disciplinary action than their white counterparts. Within London, the likelihood rose to two times.

A leading contributor to this phenomenon, it notes, is the “lack of confidence” some managers feel in conducting informal conversations with BME staff regarding their performance, which it found to be critical in resolving minor issues and avoiding disciplinary action.

The number of BME staff reporting bullying and harassment by patients, relatives and other members of the public was found to have fallen slightly, from 30 per cent to 29 per cent, bringing it much closer in line with the 28 per cent of white staff who reported the same.

However, the report warned that bullying and harassment from colleagues remains significantly higher for BME than white staff, at 27 per cent to 24 per cent. Over the past year, the gap has narrowed slightly due to more white staff reporting instances of bullying.

The authors warned that trusts where high levels of bullying are present have experienced significant instances of turnover, absenteeism and lower morale, which have led to negative impacts on the quality of patient care and safety.

Across England, white staff, on average, were 1.6 times more likely to be appointed from shortlisting. At 38 of the 238 trusts surveyed, white staff were found to be twice as likely to be appointed from shortlists, while just 15 trusts reported a greater likelihood for BME staff.

The authors suggested a number of solutions for trusts to close the gap for BME staff, including better tracking of data, communicating the adverse effects of the gap to middle managers and providing BME staff with easier access to board members.

Joan Saddler, co-chair of the NHS Equality and Diversity Council and Associate Director at the NHS Confederation, said: “It is crucial to the success of the NHS that we listen to people using services and enable diverse teams to deliver services efficiently and compassionately.

“That’s what this report is ultimately about… The evidence 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.”

Read the full story in next week’s issue of Eastern Eye next Friday (28).

Click here to read the full report.

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