Inequality and discrimination over race, religion and gender growing in NHS, says study

Inequality and discrimination among NHS workers are “getting worse”, according to a report by the Nuffield Trust.

The report, commissioned by NHS Employers, part of the NHS Confederation, describes inequality based on race, religion and gender.

It is said that Muslim employees are more than twice as likely to be discriminated against as non-religious employees, and male nurses are twice as likely to climb up the two salary levels as nurses.

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

13% of Muslim employees felt discriminated against by a supervisor or colleague in the past 12 months, compared with 6% of employees with no religion.

After nine years of service, 41% of male nurses moved up two pay levels, compared with 20% of female nurses, according to the report.

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

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

In 36 trusts, white workers were at least twice as likely to be shortlisted as those from ethnic minorities, but in another 32 the likelihood was the same.

The report also found that only two in five NHS deaf workers reported having the appropriate adjustments they needed at work during the pandemic.

The authors conclude: “Despite significant efforts and innumerable initiatives, inequality among NHS staff groups persists or is getting worse – and the health care system does not have the tools to address it.

“Critical data is missing, low-profile groups are being overlooked, and there is a poor understanding of what actually helps improve diversity and equity.

“It also stands in the way of the health care system’s ability to find and retain staff when capacity is urgently needed and goals require an additional 50,000 nurses.”

Dr. William Palmer, Senior Policy Fellow of the Nuffield Trust, said: “On paper, the NHS has for years recognized that inequalities and discrimination among employees are morally unacceptable and interfere with quality care.

“Still, progress in actually reducing disparities has been painfully slow – and we even saw signs that the bias might get worse.”

Danny Mortimer, Chief Executive of NHS Employers, added, “Our members have an absolute duty to finally address the inequalities in our workplaces.

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

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

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

“It’s not just a barrier to recruiting and retaining more caregivers; it endangers the patient. “

The report recommends that the NHS include nationality in its employee survey and that each trust ensure that its diversity leads have access to ongoing education.

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