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BME nurses underrepresented at higher pay bands

Black and minority ethnic (BME) nurses, midwives and health visitors face a glass ceiling at higher Agenda for Change pay bands in England, according to a new report on workforce race equality.

Data shows that while the number of band 5 BME nurses increased and white nurses decreased in 2018, compared to 2017, this change wasn’t maintained further up the AfC pay scale, with total numbers of BME nurses falling at each pay band.

In 2018, BME nurses comprised of just 10% of the band 8a workforce, 8.2% of the band 8b workforce, and 6.2% at band 8c. Yet at band 5, BME staff account for 26% of all nurses.

While there were over 1,000 white nurses at band 8c, there were just 74 BME equivalents in 2018. At band 8d there were 22 BME nurses, compared to 359 white, and just five at band 9, compared to 118 white nurses.

'The higher the pay band, the lower the proportion of BME nurses, midwives and health visitors,' concluded the Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) report, which was shared at the Chief Nursing Officer for England’s Summit in Birmingham this week.

The report also revealed that across the 231 NHS trusts in England, only eight had a BME chief nurse as of January 2019.

Director of WRES implementation Yvonne Coghill, who is also the current deputy president of the Royal College of Nursing, joined many of these BME chief nurses on stage at the conference to discuss workforce equality in nursing and midwifery.  

'We need to have many more black and ethnic minority senior leaders in the NHS,’ she said.

Speaking to delegates, Ms Coghill acknowledged that this is not a new problem, but said that increasing the numbers of BME senior leaders the 'morally right thing to do', and will bring other benefits.

She continued: 'When we have staff who are motivated, who are valued, who feel part of the thing that we call the NHS, we get higher patient care, better patient care, patient satisfaction and patient safety.' 

The report also reaffirmed the 2028 commitment to ensure NHS leadership is representative of the overall BME workforce.