Revealed: Scale of discrimination against ethnic minority staff in Norfolk's NHS
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Discrimination of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) staff is on the rise in some Norfolk's NHS trusts, with more than a third of staff at the ambulance service saying they received abuse colleagues and managers.
Figures in the annual NHS staff survey reveal 37pc of BME staff in the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST) have experienced discrimination within the last year - the highest percentage of any NHS trusts in England and an increase on the 23pc seen the year before. That was more than double the average of NHS trusts in England which was 16pc.
At the James Paget University Hospital (JPUH), 26pc of BME staff said they had been discriminated against – the second highest rate in the country after the EEAST, and an increase of more than 10pc from the results of the 2019 survey.
Around a fifth of BME staff at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) and the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) also said they had experienced discrimination at work in the last year. Again, all were higher than the national average.
Unison’s eastern regional organiser Peter Passingham said the figures should “ring alarm bells across the NHS”.
“It’s clear this is a very real problem affecting ethnic minority health staff and the NHS as a whole,” he added.
“We’re already working with NHS trusts across Norfolk to tackle all forms of bullying and harassment. But they must take the message from this survey seriously and redouble their efforts to stamp out racial discrimination."
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Bullying, harassment and abuse
At least one in five BME staff members across all of Norfolk’s NHS trusts said they had been bullied, harassed or abused by colleagues.
More than one in three - 35pc - at the EEAST said they had personally experienced this behaviour from colleagues.
The figure was similar at the QEH, JPUH and the NNUH, where 26pc, 29pc and 27pc of BME staff reported experiencing such behaviour. At the NSFT the figure was 23pc.
A quarter of BME staff at EEAST said they had been personally bullied, harassed or abused by managers in the last 12 months, up from 16pc the year before.
At the NSFT, almost one in five BME staff said the same thing, while the figure was between 13-16pc at Norfolk’s other hospitals.
What does the NHS say?
A spokesperson for the EEAST said concerns had been raised by many staff over the last year and that work was underway to address those concerns.
“Over the past six months, we have encouraged more staff to speak up, increased the number of frontline staff and invested in training and development for managers,” they added.
James Paget chief executive Anna Hills said the hospital was increasing ways that staff can report discriminatory or inappropriate behaviour.
“We will be completing further work on the back of these results, including in-depth engagement with our staff, to find additional ways of improving our organisation for all,” she added.
The NNUH’s chief people officer Paul Jones said the trust had formed a number of diverse staff network groups and the level of staff reporting discrimination had improved slightly on 2019.
“We know we have more work to do and are working hard to ensure all under-represented groups have their voices heard to help us move forward as a trust,” he added.
The QEH’s director of people Jo Humphries said the survey's overall results showed staff were happier.
"The results point to the work we still have to do to further improve staff engagement in the year to come and create a kind and inclusive culture”, she added.
Jonathan Warren, the chief executive of the NSFT - the region's mental health trust - said there was more work to be done.
“Sadly, the results show that our BME staff have experienced a higher level of bullying, harassment or abuse from service users, the public and our own staff than other staff," he added.
"This is not ok. In response to this, we will be focusing on creating a culture of mutual respect through our ‘Expect Respect’ campaign.”
The questionnaire also highlighted other areas of concern for Norfolk trusts.
Fairness of promotion practices
At the EEAST , only 28pc of BME staff agreed that the organisation acted fairly with regards to career progression and promotion - down from 52pc last year.
Meanwhile 57pc of white staff agreed that progression and promotion practices were fair.
At the NSFT 38pc of BME staff said promotion practices were unfair, down slightly from 40pc last year.
Answering the same question, 81pc of white staff said they were happy with promotions and progressions within the trust.
There was also a difference in how BME and white staff answered this question at Norfolk’s three hospitals.
At the NNUH 89pc of white staff thought promotion practices were fair compared to 75pc of BME staff.
And 82pc of white staff at the Queen Elizabeth thought promotion practices were fair, compared to 71pc of BME staff. At the JPUH 85pc of white staff were happy with promotion practices compared to 76pc of BME staff.