NHS managers are urged to do more to ensure the service is free of racism, after a report revealed major disadvantages faced by black and minority ethnic (BME) NHS staff.
Data shared with the Health Service Journal (HSJ) reveal a consistent pattern of BME staff getting a worse deal at work than their white colleagues.
HSJ editor Richard Vize wrote: "BME staff are less likely to be appointed from a shortlist, more likely to be disciplined, involved in a grievance, be involved in a bullying or harassment dispute or pursue a case through an employment tribunal."
Figures have been extracted from every trust in one region in England, exposing the difficulties BME people have in securing NHS jobs – and the disproportionate number involved in grievances once they are employed.
The HSJ believes the findings are likely to reflect employment patterns across the NHS.
The Race Equality Service Review has taken the South East Coast BME Network eight months to complete, at times sparking a hostile reaction from local organisations.
The research shows NHS organisations are failing on their race equality duties on a major scale. Of the region's 24 acute trusts, mental health trust and primary care trusts, 16 claimed to be complying with the Healthcare Commission's requirement that they "challenge discrimination, promote equality and respect human rights".
However, analysis carried out by the BME network, using the Healthcare Commission's own assessment criteria, suggested all organisations were failing to comply.
Last year the Healthcare Commission revealed fewer than one in 10 trusts had honoured their duties under the Race Relations Act 1976 to publish workforce data, race equality schemes and race equality impact assessments. Almost a quarter had not even published a race equality scheme.
"Taking the Healthcare Commission findings and the figures revealed in this week's HSJ together, there is prima-facie evidence that the NHS is failing to ensure it is free of racism," wrote Mr Vize.
"Each strategic health authority and trust needs to look to its own record and procedures, be honest about its failings and robust in its determination to change."
Rob Berkeley, deputy director of the Runnymede Trust, a think-tank that promotes race equality, said: "The patterns are broad enough to suggest it's about institutional racism. The NHS has been slower to address it [than other sectors] and there have been problems working out who takes the lead on it."
Healthcare Commission chief executive Anna Walker said: "Strategic health authorities need to ask themselves where their trusts are on race equality. The NHS is in a particularly high profile position.
"When people need advice on health they need it relevant to their cultural background. The NHS can be good on quality of care but not personalisation, this is something it really needs to deal with."
Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)
"The data presented by the HSJ should be of no surprise to anyone .The senior managers, leaders, commissioners, executive and non-executive directors in the NHS are fully aware of these facts and should be held accountable for their failure to deliver on their Race Equality duties. So far, the BME staff have been given a token gesture in the form of Equal Opportunities Policy, which is worthless and can only be described as lip service, and ticked the required boxes for having a policy.The data produced by the South East Coast BME Network should have been produced and PUBLISHED yearly by all the NHS Trusts but sadly most NHS Trusts have failed to produce and publish their reports despite their Race Equality Duty requiring them to do so. It is my considered opinion that several questions must be asked namely:
(a) What has the Commision for Racial Equality been doing since 2002/3 when it was required to ensure that public authorities complied with the Race Relations Amendment Act?
(b) What have the Strategic Health Authorities been doing to ensure that the NHS Trust within their responsibilities fully complied with the law not just meeting the targets?
(c) What has the DH been doing to monitor compliance of the RRA within the NHS?
(d) Who will take responsibility to ensure that the BME staff within the NHS are afforded equal opportunities instead of lip service?" – Feroz Mamode, Brighton
"I fully agree with the above. I ask myself how many managers are in post from BME STAFF from line managers level upwards" – P Ramtohul, Bradford