Intended for healthcare professionals


Race equality in the NHS

BMJ 2017; 357 doi: (Published 21 April 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;357:j1963
  1. Abi Rimmer
  1. BMJ Careers
  1. arimmer{at}

This month NHS England reported on how work to improve race equality in NHS trusts has been going.1

Disciplinary action

NHS staff from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds are much more likely to be disciplined than white staff. In 74% of the 224 trusts analysed, BME staff were more likely to enter the disciplinary process than white staff. In London, BME staff were twice as likely to enter the formal disciplinary process than their white counterparts.

Bullying and harassment

BME staff remain more likely than white staff to experience harassment, bullying, or abuse from other staff. In 2015, 24% of white staff experienced harassment, bullying, or abuse from colleagues, compared with 27% of BME staff. The proportion of white staff who faced harassment, bullying, or abuse from patients, relatives, or the public in 2015 was 28%. For BME staff it was 29%.


BME staff are more likely to experience discrimination at work from colleagues and their managers. In 2014, 15% of BME staff reported that in the past 12 months they had experienced discrimination at work from a manager, team leader, or other colleagues, compared with 7% of white staff. In 2015 the proportion fell to 14% for BME staff and 6% for white staff.

Career progression

BME staff remain less likely than white staff to say that their trust provides equal opportunities for career progression. London has the greatest likelihood of white staff being appointed from shortlisting, and also the highest proportion of trusts where BME staff say that their trust doesn’t provide equal opportunities for career progression.

Senior managers

BME representation at board and very senior manager level remains lower than BME representation in the overall NHS workforce. There were, on average, nearly 14 white staff for each trust on a very senior manager grade, but just one BME member of staff per trust at the same level.


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