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Over half of ethnic minority NHS leaders consider quitting due to racism

Published on: 17 Jun 2022

Just over half of senior ethnic minority leaders have considered leaving the NHS due to experiencing workplace racism, a survey shared with HSJ suggests.

The survey was carried out by the NHS Confederation’s BME Leadership Network and its 123 respondents included chief executives, directors and senior managers.

Responses were collected from network members online before three roundtables were held with senior ethnic minority leaders to understand their experiences and the challenges they have faced in relation to discrimination.

The survey found:

  • 51 per cent of respondents said they had considered leaving the NHS in the past three years because of their experience of racist treatment while working;
  • More than 20 per cent said they had experienced verbal abuse or abusive behaviour targeting racial, national or cultural heritage five times or more in the last three years;
  • 69 per cent had experienced this behaviour from other leaders or managers within their organisation at least once in the same timeframe; and
  • 57 per cent had experienced it from leaders or managers in another organisation at least once over the same period.

Nearly three-quarters of leaders surveyed said their working environment had “changed significantly” due to the pandemic, while a further 58 per cent said this had an impact on their experience of, or exposure to, racism in the workplace.

Meanwhile, only one in 10 respondents said they were confident the NHS was delivering on its commitment to combat institutional racism.

The findings come after General Sir Gordon Messenger’s review advocated for a “step-change” in how the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion are embedded “as the personal responsibility of every leader and every member of staff”.

His report said: “Although good practice is by no means rare, there is widespread evidence of inequity in experience and opportunity for those with protected characteristics, of which we would call out race and disability as the most starkly disadvantaged.”

Joan Saddler, NHS Confederation’s director of equality and partnerships, said the NHS was at risk of losing “committed, highly skilled and motivated talent to institutional racism and discrimination”.

She added: “The NHS – nationally, locally and regionally – must prioritise supporting its [black and minority ethnic] leaders to feel safe from discrimination in the workplace so we can make the NHS the employer of choice and support them even more to do their vital roles.”

Saffron Cordery, NHS Providers’ interim chief executive, said the NHS Confederation’s report “exposes the unacceptable experiences endured by many NHS colleagues”.

HSJ approached NHS England for comment.