NHS must combat ‘white privilege’ and increase diversity

In the NHS we have got a problem with ensuring that we have the right people in leadership positions to represent the diversity of our workforce’

The NHS needs to do more to tackle “white privilege” and increase black, Asian and minority ethnic (Bame) representation in leadership positions, a Trust chief executive has said.

Sarah-Jane Marsh, of the Birmingham Women’s & Children’s NHS Trust, told Sky News a lack of representation among senior managers and directors means the NHS is not as diverse as the communities it serves.

She said it means the NHS may not be getting the best possible staff.

Across NHS England, 18 per cent of staff are from a Bame background, but they make up only 7 per cent of very senior managers, according to an NHS report released in 2017.

Ms Marsh said: ”I know that in the NHS we have got a problem with ensuring that we have the right people in leadership positions to represent the diversity of our workforce.

“The Workforce Race Equality Scheme data tells us that white people are more likely to be appointed at interview than black people, and in my own organisation they are twice as likely to be appointed.

“I do not believe that is because white people are twice as good as black people, there is something else going on.

“I think there is white privilege, I think there are people having unconscious bias, there are people coming to interview and not performing because they see a panel in front of them that does not believe in diversity, and I want to do something to change that.”

A spokesperson for NHS England agreed more needed to be done to increase Bame representation.

“Making our workforce more representative of the people we care for is good for our staff and good for our patients,” they told The Independent.

“Although the NHS has made progress in increasing senior representation of people from black and minority ethnic groups in recent years, we must always do more, and the honest assessment we undertake every year of racial equality in the health service will help trusts understand the challenges and deliver improvement where it’s needed.”

The NHS’s latest annual report into race equality, released in 2017, showed Bame staff were significantly more likely to experience discrimination from colleagues and managers compared to white staff, at 14 per cent compared to 6 per cent.

However, the report found similar proportions of Bame and white staff were likely to experience harassment, bullying or abuse from members of the public, at 29 and 28 per cent respectively.

Ms Marsh said she would no longer sit on an interview panel which does not include someone from a Bame background.

She explained: “I want anyone coming for interview to see that we are a diverse organisation and want the best people regardless of their background.

“It’s clear white people have privilege because they make their way into positions of authority far more quickly.”

Written By: Samuel Osborne

First Published 29.05.18: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/nhs-diversity-staff-white-privilege-bame-representation-a8373631.html

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