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NHS: BME staff ‘more likely to be bullied than white colleagues’


Black and ethnic minority staff working in the NHS are more likely to report being bullied or harassed than their white colleagues, the first national review by NHS England has suggested.

The report, which covers all NHS trusts in England, calls for attitudes and behaviour to change.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said the results were “deeply concerning and a clear call to action”.

The NHS has said it is investing £2m over two years to tackle the issue.

Joan Saddler, who co-chairs the NHS equality and diversity council (EDC), said although trusts had traditionally collected data on staff experiences through local surveys, they had “generally failed to act” on them.

For the first time, the EDC has collated data from these surveys to analyse patterns and provide a national picture.

The self-reported surveys look at experiences of harassment, bullying and abuse from staff, managers, relatives and patients as well as career opportunities for staff at managerial or board levels.


The NHS has not provided average figures for the proportion of black and ethnic minority (BME) workers who reported being bullied or harassed, or the overall average differences between BME and white staff.

But the report said a higher percentage of BME workers than white colleagues reported being harassed, bullied or abused by staff in three-quarters of so-called acute trusts (which include urgent services such as accident and emergency and maternity departments).

Overall, BME staff were also more likely to report facing personal discrimination at work from a manager or team leader.

And BME colleagues were generally less likely than white staff to say their trusts provided equal opportunities for career progression or promotion.

Levels of harassment from relatives or the public remained broadly similar for BME and non-BME staff.

Again, no overall figures were given.

‘No complacency’

Mr Stevens said the report provided “unvarnished feedback” to every hospital trust across the NHS.

“It confirms that while some employers have got it right, for many others these staff survey results are both deeply concerning and a clear call to action,” he said.

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said in the report: “We must not be defensive or complacent, but must change our cultures, biases, attitudes and behaviours as well as improve our processes and policies.”

NHS England says it will tackle the issue by introducing 75 “champions”, who will work with trusts to reduce inequalities.

Mandip Kaur, from health think tank The King’s Fund, said: “This research confirms that significant numbers of NHS staff from black or ethnic minority backgrounds still experience more discrimination and bullying in the workplace than their white colleagues.

“This not only affects staff morale and wellbeing, but can impact the quality of care received by patients. We know that the experience of BME staff is a very good barometer of the climate of respect and care within NHS organisations.”


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