BAME nurses lose out on promotions in British healthcare, finds RCN

RCN data finds that white nurses are more likely to get promoted

Race has a role to play in career progression in the British health and care industry, according to a new study released by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), showing Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) nurses are losing out.

The organisation’s findings highlight how structural racism means that white NHS nurses are twice as likely to be promoted as their Black and Asian colleagues. The differences in promotion between the races were most stark between the ages of 35 and 44, according to the RCN, which is arguably a pivotal time for staff to move into more managerial roles. While 65.9% of white and 64% of mixed ethnic respondents in this age group said they had been promoted, this dropped to just 38.3% of Asian and 35.2% of Black respondents.

Ethnic minority staff are also more likely to experience direct forms of racism and abuse in their jobs. The RCN referred to data which showed that Black respondents working in hospitals and community care are more likely to report experiencing physical abuse than people from other ethnic backgrounds.

These findings should act as a warning to healthcare leaders to implement more safety measures and career progression opportunities for BAME staff to ensure a more equitable healthcare workforce with diverse leaders that can affect change and a more diverse workforce with varied backgrounds and experiences that can better serve the UK’s patient community.

The bottleneck of ethnic minority staff in the UK healthcare industry is much discussed among alumni of the National BAME Health & Care Awards. During a series of private roundtable discussions following last year’s awards, winners have suggested reverse mentoring and more diverse job interview panels, among other things, as ways to develop and promote more ethnic minority staff into senior positions.

Nii Cleland, CEO and Co-Founder of FLAIR, a company tackling racial equity with technology and data, responded to the report and believes that data-backed action can create change.

“The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) ‘s study on the state of racism within health and care is shocking, but unfortunately not surprising. It is clear that urgent action needs to be taken at a cultural level to tackle inequities and build inclusive workplaces.

“The cumulative impact of racial discrimination over time can be debilitating, eroding confidence and creating lasting self-doubt within individuals. With the NHS facing more challenges than ever before, creating a stronger healthcare system is dependent on placing inclusion and diversity at the heart of the organisation. Not only will this help to overcome the critical challenges faced in recruitment, retention and planning, but it is also essential to improving clinical outcomes and patient care. 

“The RCN’s research and call for the Government to tackle racism in healthcare is an important first piece of the puzzle, but now more needs to be done to map the culture of NHS organisations. Driving progress requires a change of approach. Racial equity cannot be solely treated as an emotional issue but one that is addressed and reported on like other organisational issues. Data must be used to dive deeper and understand the racial awareness, racist behaviours and inclusion barriers amongst workforces. 

“Ultimately, strong words have not moved the needle enough to create long-lasting, systemic change. We need a different, data-backed approach to improve accountability and transparency – and pave the way for racial equity in health and care.” 

To gain access to the RCN report, click here.

To find out more about the National BAME Health & Care Awards, click here.

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