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Call on NHS to stand against discrimination

The Royal College of Psychiatrists is calling on the National Health Service (NHS) to take a stand against discrimination by setting up better processes in NHS trusts to record and understand data about bullying and harassment.

The College quotes from the NHS annual staff survey, that in 2020 near a third (32.7 per cent) of 16,165 ethnic minority respondents experienced harassment, bullying or abuse at work from patients or service users, their relatives or other members of the public. Near a fifth (19.6pc) of 15,985 ethnic minority respondents experienced harassment, bullying or abuse at work from other colleagues. The College points also to a lack of confidence to report such incidents across all the protected characteristics.

Dr Adrian James, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “This analysis is deeply concerning and shows the NHS has a long way to go in improving conditions and opportunities for career progression are available to everyone, not just white people. It’s bad for the NHS and bad for our patients if motivated and talented people are held back because of their background.

“NHS leaders and local health bosses must tackle this head on while also improving conditions for ethnic minority people working in mental health.”

From the survey also, more than one in three (37.9pc) of 6,287 people of ethnic minority didn’t report the harassment, bullying or abuse the last time it happened. And most, 86pc of staff from ethnic minorities in mental health trusts who experienced discrimination said it was based on their ethnic background.

Dr Lade Smith, presidential lead for race equality at the College, said: “The evidence from multiple surveys proves that ethnic minority staff continue to suffer racism and discrimination and this affects their work satisfaction, performance and career progression. There is also increasing evidence that it affects both their mental and physical health.

“Despite the best efforts of some employers, there has been little change over the years. Unhappy staff are less efficient, less productive and less able to provide high quality care. Healthcare leaders must begin to tackle the insidious racism and discrimination that can take place in the workplace. They must develop robust reporting processes, that staff can feel confident in using, aimed at supporting demonstrable improvements.”

The Royal College is calling on named executive board leads in mental health trusts to take responsibility for making reporting easier and for taking decisive action against violations of ethnic minority workers’ rights.

In universities meanwhile, Universities UK last month published guidance that calls on university leaders to acknowledge where there are issues in their institutions, and that UK higher education perpetuates institutional racism. It cites racial harassment, a lack of diversity among senior leaders, the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic student attainment gap and ethnicity pay gaps among staff as evidence. It also recommends training for senior leaders and governing bodies to improve their awareness of concepts including white privilege and allyship, and makes clear that efforts to address racial harassment will only succeed if the entire university community – including students, staff, alumni, and local partners – are engaged.


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