What challenges do BAME nurses face?

As sad as it is to say, colour still appears to play a role in a BAME nurses’ life. Hospital Trusts throughout the UK claim that this isn’t true, but are they telling the truth?


It’s not just nurses either – the favouritism towards ‘non-BAME’ hospital staff is a constant worry throughout the whole of the medical world, including disproportionate representation on trust boards and National Health bodies. It starts from the top, and the knock-on effect is felt all the way through from doctors to nursing staff. The lack of BAME senior board members throughout the healthcare system, is certainly of great concern.


With such precedence given to colour, our healthcare system, let alone patients, is at serious risk.


As recently as this week (27 July 2022), retiring chair of the BMA (British Medical Association) stated that ‘sexism and racism run rife in the NHS’, a sobering thought indeed. He reiterates that the Government and the NHS have to work together to end this situation. He further concluded that ‘bullying, harassment and disciplinary referrals were at twice the rate for doctors and nurses from ethnic minorities’.


Considering the following:

  • BAME nursing staff must have the same qualifications and training as their non-BAME counterparts. They have frequently studied more than the requirements that are standard, as well as having to demonstrate their English language accomplishment.
  • They frequently leave all family and friends, including potentially their own children, behind. This in itself is a huge and selfless step, for which you should be respected.
  • Their main desires are to fit in, join a nursing community in harmony, and take care of their patients as they have been trained to do.


What more could you ask for? Racial equality in all forms, whether moral or practical, abolishment of racist behaviour, and more of a welcoming environment for overseas nurses would be the least people could do, but there’s more.


Health Trusts should be ensuring that the principles and codes that the NHS pride themselves on are carried out. There is a code of ethics for both the treatment of NHS employees as well as patients. The code for all parts of the United Kingdom is one of ‘Conduct standards are established to promote fairness in the treatment of all NHS employees. In general terms, any type of behaviour or conduct at work which falls below the required standard, or which is in breach of the employer’s policies, may be considered a form of misconduct.’


At AppLocum, we constantly ask ourselves if our locum nursing staff are being looked after, based on the NHS code of ethics. AppLocum cares about its valuable employees and wish to hear from you if you are the victim of any form of racial prejudice or behaviour in the workplace. We will help wherever we can.


Current Steps in place


Some of you may not have heard or been informed of WRES (Workforce Race Equality Standard). It’s a requirement for NHS commissioners and NHS Healthcare Providers to implement this, and for it to be strongly monitored. The NHS Equality and Diversity Council are responsible for ensuring that employees from black and minority ethnic backgrounds are treated fairly and equally, as this will prove that studies show that a motivated and valued workforce will help deliver high quality patient care at all times. Patient satisfaction and patient safety were another two relevant pinpoints.

(Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES), 2022)


Speaking up for inequality – FtSU (Freedom to Speak Up)


This is another innovation from the NHS. A statement from them regarding the FtSU states:


‘NHS England aims to ensure everyone working within the NHS feel safe and confident to speak up. We encourage our NHS leaders to take the opportunity to learn and improve from those who speak up.


We want everyone working in the NHS to feel safe and confident to speak up and all NHS leaders to welcome this opportunity to learn and improve.’


The FtSU movement is available throughout the UK, in all of our nations. It’s a comforting thought, but finding the strength and confidence to do so, particularly as a locum going from one healthcare setting to another in a short space of time, may be difficult for you. We encourage our locums to feel free to speak up in primary care and integrated settings at all times. If you find this difficult but are unhappy about any racial bias towards you, you can always speak to AppLocum first. We will help however we can.


In your quest for freedom of speech, have a look at https://www.england.nhs.uk/ourwork/freedom-to-speak-up/developing-freedom-to-speak-up-arrangements-in-the-nhs/.


It is also important that senior healthcare professionals on boards, human resources departments, and any other relevant roles, are totally aware of the principles of FtSU. Information on training for National Guardians (the NHS arm of the FtSU) is available here.


We can all look forward to a racially harmonious NHS in the not too distant future, where everyone works together for the same end – patient care of the highest level.



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