Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) nurses need a stronger a voice in nursing and in the NHS, says the founder of the British Indian Nurses Association (BINA).
Marimouttou Coumarassamy, founder and chairman of BINA and deputy chief operating officer at Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, told Nursing in Practice that the Government needs to do more for minority nurses.
Mr Coumarassamy has launched a petition calling on the Government to hold an independent inquiry investigating if injustices were suffered by BAME NHS staff during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The petition, which now has almost 2,000 signatures, says that the Government should ‘see what lessons can be learned so that such injustices do not happen again in the future, and to provide support and compassion to those who have suffered.’
During the Covid-19 pandemic, nurses from minority ethnic backgrounds faced disproportionate mortality and morbidity rates, with some analyses suggesting that six in ten UK health workers killed by Covid were BAME.
Since then, a number of high-profile incidents have once again raised concerns over the discrimination facing BAME nurses in the NHS. This month, the chief executive of NHS England issued a formal apology to a black senior nurse who was the victim of racial discrimination at work.
‘From my perspective,’ said Mr Coumarassamy, ‘I don’t think BAME people have enough voice in the system and within the RCN (Royal College of Nursing).’
He added: ‘Nursing is a predominantly female profession, and if you are a BAME female then you will have even more challenges.’
‘If we take the NHS, all the policies, procedures, and values are in place but when an incident [of discrimination] happens, who is held accountable?
‘At the time of Covid we were talking about the issues and there was a lot of acknowledgement of the discrimination and structural racism, but there haven’t really been any changes.’
While Mr Coumarassamy says that ‘compared to five or six years ago, it is much better now’ he still maintains that more needs to be done to support BAME nurses.
‘There are a lot of examples where the system failed people, and no one is held accountable. I just want the Government to learn from all these failings and provide some clear direction about what changes we need to make.
‘The Government should provide an accountability framework to make sure things that are clearcut, and leaders need to be clear about their values and hold each other to account.’
A DHSC spokesperson said: ‘The NHS has one of the most diverse workforces in the country and equality and respect are central to its culture. These values are at the heart of the NHS People Plan.
‘We want to do all we can to support staff from ethnic minority backgrounds to thrive and progress, and the NHS has taken action to improve recruitment processes and career opportunities.’