A black senior nurse who was the victim of racial discrimination at work received a written apology from NHS England’s chief executive following a landmark legal win.
Michelle Cox won an employment tribunal against NHS England and NHS improvement for racial discrimination and whistle blowing detriment.
It was ruled in a judgement published last month that Ms Cox was treated unfavourably by her employer because of her race and because of her willingness to speak out.
Now, following the judge’s decision, NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard has sent a formal apology to Ms Cox on behalf of her organisation.
In the letter, shared by the RCN which supported Ms Cox during the tribunal, Ms Prichard said: ‘I sincerely apologise to you for what you were put through and I am grateful for your courage and resilience in speaking up about practice that was inappropriate and discriminatory.’
Ms Pritchard went on to say that she is wholly committed to ensuring that NHSE ‘learns from and acts on the failings’, with some initial areas of action already identified.
In light of the apology and NHSE’s offer to engage, Ms Cox will be seeking a meeting with Amanda Pritchard to discuss the outcome of her case so it can act as a driver for change.
The judgement concerned the period between 2019 and 2021 in which Ms Cox was employed by NHS England and NHS Improvement conditioning.
The judge found that Ms Cox’s line manager, Gill Paxton, excluded Ms Cox at ‘every opportunity’ and ‘created an intimidating and hostile and humiliating environment’.
The tribunal heard how Ms Paxton purposely excluded Ms Cox from team events, including two team away-days that were arranged for occasions she could not attend.
One of these days was scheduled for a time Ms Cox was due to be at a national conference for minority ethnic nurses.
When the tribunal outcome was announced last month, Ms Cox said she hoped the ‘landmark outcome leaves a legacy for change for staff experiencing race discrimination’.
RCN Director for England, Patricia Marquis, speaking on the written apology, said: ‘This outcome must drive change – racial discrimination should never be acceptable or tolerated and must be rooted out.
‘Yet while this case and what Michelle Cox has been subjected to is shocking, it is sadly not uncommon. Our minority ethnic colleagues are still facing race discrimination each and every day.’
The latest Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) report showed last month that nurses from minority ethnic backgrounds faced higher levels of discrimination compared to their White counterparts.
It also pointed to a ‘striking disadvantage’ affecting black nurses who were the least likely to feel their organisation provides equal career opportunities and also reported some of the highest levels of discrimination.