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Staff discrimination at record high

Published on: 7 Mar 2024

Staff have reported the highest ever level of discrimination in the NHS’s annual staff survey, reaching nearly one in 10.

Results published today showed the percentage of staff who had faced discrimination from the public in the past 12 months rose from 8.3 per cent in 2022 to 8.5 per cent in 2023. This is the highest recorded figure since the question was first asked in 2019, when it was 7.2 per cent.

Discrimination from managers and other colleagues was also at its highest in four years, increasing slightly from 9 per cent in 2022 to 9.07 per cent, up from 7.7 per cent in 2019.

Some 707,460 staff responded to the survey this year – an increase from 636,438 in 2022, and response rate of 48 per cent – between September and November. 

Ambulance staff reported the highest levels of discrimination compared to other groups, followed by nurses, midwives and healthcare staff.

The capital was highest for those reporting discrimination from the public and patients, followed by the South East, the East of England and the Midlands.

For managers and colleagues, London was followed by the East of England, the Midlands and the South East.

However, the survey saw improvements on most questions compared to the previous year.

The percentage of staff who would recommend their organisation as a place to work has risen to its highest level since 2020, up from 57.4 per cent up to 61.1 per cent over a 12-month period.

Meanwhile, more staff have said they would be happy with the standard of care provided by their organisation if a friend or relative required treatment. This rose from 62.9 per cent in 2022 to 64.9 per cent.

When staff were asked whether their managers cared about their concerns and take effective action, both questions saw an uptick.

Integrated care boards appear to be an exception to the overall improving trend, with results deteriorating, amid ongoing restructure and staffing cuts.

Sexual harassment

NHS staff were asked if they had experienced any unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature in the workplace for the first time.

Steve Russell, NHS England’s chief delivery officer, said the answers would “help us understand the potential prevalence of sexual misconduct in your organisation and inform further action to protect and support staff across the NHS”.

The survey found 8.7 per cent of respondents had faced sexual harassment in the past 12 months from patients, their relatives, and other members of the public. Meanwhile, 3.84 per cent had experienced this from their colleagues.

Ambulance staff reported the highest levels among occupational groups on both questions, followed by nursing and healthcare assistants.

Navina Evans, NHSE’s chief workforce officer, said: “It is very distressing that more than 58,000 NHS staff reported experiencing unwanted sexual behaviour from the public last year and such conduct should not be tolerated in the NHS.

“That is why the NHS launched its first ever sexual safety charter last year, which provides clear commitments to improve reporting on unacceptable behaviour, as well as appointing more than 300 domestic abuse and sexual violence leads who will review and improve trust policies for reporting of sexual harassment.

“While there is still more to do, it is good news that less than 12 months after the publication of the NHS long-term workforce plan, staff are happier at work than last year thanks to initiatives such as flexible working hours, clinical support squads to help menopausal women at work, and HR stay advocates.”