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Overwhelmed and undervalued


Rise in abuse and bullying against BME nurses since Covid, data shows

Rise in abuse and bullying against BME nurses since Covid, data shows


Abuse, bullying and harassment has remained ‘stubbornly high’ towards BME nurses since the Covid pandemic, a group also underrepresented in senior positions, data has revealed.

The latest Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) survey of all NHS Trusts and CCGs, published yesterday, shows 29% of BME healthcare staff have experienced abuse, bullying and harassment from other staff over the last 12 months in 2020, compared to 23% of white staff.

BME women were the most likely group to experience abuse, harassment and bullying from other staff, the document said, as seen particularly in nursing and midwifery (32%), medical and dental (32%) and general management (36%).

Likewise, 29% of BME staff experienced bullying, harassment of abuse from patients last year – compared to 3% of white staff. The worse affected group was BME women (30%).

Abuse, bullying and harassment from both patients and staff towards BME nurses has increased since the Covid-19 pandemic begun, the report concluded.

Career progression

The survey also revealed BME staff were more than 1.25 times more likely than white staff to enter the formal disciplinary process, while they also remain underrepresented in senior positions and particularly in board executive roles.

The proportion of BME staff who think their Trust has equal career progression or promotion opportunities is at its lowest point since 2015, decreasing from 71% in 2019 to 69% in 2020.

Meanwhile, the percentage of BME staff who discrimination at work from a manager, team leader or other colleagues is at its highest level since 2015, the report added.

However, the figures also show the number of BME staff at very senior manager level has almost doubled between 2020 to 2021 – up from 153 to 298. Meanwhile, the number of BME board members across all NHS trusts have increased by a quarter between 2020 and 2021.

‘Totally unacceptable’

Joan Saddler, director of partnerships and equality at the NHS Confederation, said the ‘stubbornly high’ abuse, bullying and harassment figures reveal a ‘disconnect when it comes to the practical application of our NHS commitment towards ensuring workforce race equality’.

She urged NHSEI to now publish the race equality strategy for the health service ‘with more focus on changing the power relationships that determine the distribution of NHS jobs services and resources’, adding that ‘there is much more to do’.

Ms Saddler continued: ‘Sadly, this year’s data again shows BME staff are still underrepresented at all levels, especially on boards, and the levels of bullying and abuse directed at BME staff remains stubbornly high from both patients and other staff.’

Professor Anton Emmanuel, Head of Workforce Race Equality Standard agreed there ‘remains a lot of work to do’ but added ‘it is possible to shift staff experience, and the challenge now is to ensure this happens across the whole of the NHS.’

This comes after a report from 2020 found BME groups faced a ‘triple whammy of threats’ to their finances, mental health and virus risk during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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