Inequality and discrimination based on race, religion and gender on the rise in NHS, study finds

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Inequalities and discrimination among NHS staff are “getting worse”, according to a report from the Nuffield Trust.

The report, commissioned by the employers of the NHS, which is part of the NHS Confederation, details inequalities based on race, religion and gender.

It says Muslim staff are more than twice as likely to be discriminated against as staff with no religion, and nurses are twice as likely to advance two salary brackets as nurses.

The report, titled Attracting, Supporting and Retaining a Diverse NHS Workforce, is based on interviews with frontline workers.

It indicates that 13% of Muslim staff felt they had been discriminated against by a manager or colleague in the past 12 months, compared to 6% of workers with no religion.

After nine years of service, 41% of nurses rose two salary brackets, compared to 20% of nurses, according to the report.

Those who prefer to self-describe their gender are twice as likely to experience discrimination as other staff, according to the report.

Research adds that ethnic minority staff are 27% less likely than white staff to be “very senior managers,” the highest levels of management, although there are large disparities between trusts.

White staff were at least twice as likely to be appointed from a shortlist than those from ethnic minority groups in 36 trusts, but in 32 others the likelihood was the same.

The report also found that only two in five deaf NHS workers said they had received the reasonable adjustments they needed at work during the pandemic.

Its authors conclude: ‘Despite considerable efforts and countless initiatives, inequalities between groups of NHS staff persist or even worsen – and the health service does not have the tools to address them.

“Crucial data is lacking, less prominent groups are overlooked, and understanding of what actually works to improve diversity and equity is poor.

“It also hampers the ability of health services to find and retain staff at a time when more capacity is desperately needed and targets require an additional 50,000 nurses. “

Dr William Palmer, senior policy researcher at the Nuffield Trust, said: “On paper, the NHS has recognized for years that disparities and discrimination among staff are morally unacceptable and disrupt the quality of care.

“Yet progress in reducing disparities has been painfully slow – and we have even seen signs that the stigma may be worsening.”

Danny Mortimer, Managing Director of NHS Employers, added: “There is an absolute commitment from our members to finally address inequalities in our workplaces.

“This report highlights the steps that are being taken, but rightly reminds us that much more urgency and impact is needed in every part of the NHS.”

Royal College of Nursing chief executive Pat Cullen said the NHS leadership had “no alternative but to act on the findings” of the report.

He said: “This report makes it clear that a lack of inclusion and diversity can no longer be relegated to the bottom of the priority list.

“It’s not just a barrier to recruiting and retaining more nurses; it puts patients at risk.

The report recommends that the NHS include nationality in its staff survey and that each trust ensure that its diversity managers have access to continuing education.

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