Over one in five (22.4%) of the NHS’s vast workforce are from a Black and minority ethnic (BME) background. However, the recently published workforce race equality standard (WRES) report shows that BME staff as a whole remain less well represented at senior levels, have worse day-to-day work experiences – including being more likely to experience harassment, bullying or abuse from either colleagues or others – and face more challenges in progressing their careers.
The chart below, which draws together data on these inequalities in experiences, opportunities and outcomes in a single chart, shows how stark some of the differences are. In particular, those from a BME background are well over twice as likely to personally experience discrimination at work from a manager or other colleague (16.7% compared to 6.2% for White ethnicity) and substantially less likely than White applicants to be appointed from a recruitment shortlist.
There have been some improvements, including falling disparities in the likelihood of entering formal disciplinary processes (which has been subject to a national target) or being a very senior manager (where the inequality is still vast) compared to 2016 (light grey lines) and in last year’s report (dark grey lines). But the inequalities persist. Given the stubbornness of the challenge, we recently reported on the practical conditions necessary to improve the situation, including sufficient information and data; clarity on what works; and sufficient resources and clear responsibilities to implement and evaluate.
The report – commissioned and supported by NHS Employers – also set out practical policy recommendations that we believe would improve the current situation. We hope these will be reflected in the (overdue) NHS workforce race equality strategy. Certainly, the moral, legal and ethical case, coupled with robust evidence base on improved efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability of improved diversity and inclusion, mean action must be taken.