As of 31st March 2021, 22.4 percent (309,532) of staff working in NHS trusts in England were from a black and minority ethnic (BME) background.

Despite it being a low percentage, this is nonetheless an increase from 19.1 percent in 2018.

This is according to the NHS England Workforce Race Equality Standard 2021 report, which was published yesterday (7th April).

The report also shows that white applicants were 1.61 times more likely to be appointed from shortlisting compared to BME applicants. There has been no overall improvement over the past six years.

Additionally, 16.7 percent of BME staff had personally experienced discrimination at work from a manager, team leader or other colleagues in 2020. This is the highest level since 2015 (14%).

Also, 35.3 percent of staff from “other” black background (i.e. other than African or Caribbean) experienced harassment, bulling and/or abuse from other staff in the last 12 months. This has increased from 32.8 percent in 2016.


BME women

According to the repot, BME women (29.5%) were most likely to have experienced harassment, bullying or abuse from patients, their relatives or the general public in the last 12 months.

This is not a new trend; it has been evident since at least 2016.

Also, ambulance (operational) staff (54.2%) experienced the highest level of harassment, bullying or abuse from patients, relatives or the public in the last 12 months.

Amongst the highest groups to experience this harassment was women from a white other background (76.4%) and women from a Bangladeshi background (72.7%).


Inequalities are rife

 “Inequalities in any form are at odds with the values of the NHS – the fair treatment of our staff is directly linked to better clinical outcomes and better experience of care for patients,” says Acting NHS Chief People Officer, Em Wilkinson-Brice.

“The data in this year’s report is a reflection of the systematised and complex picture that applies to racial discrimination in the country,” highlights Head of the WRES, Anton Emmanuel.


How can these inequalities be corrected?

Pointing to prospective solutions, Emmanuel says that the “soon to be published workforce race equality strategy will assist organisations in recognising what actions and what key performance indicators could be deployed to identify the course to follow.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has put in the spotlight the disadvantage experienced by staff with protected characteristics. The report presents the ethnicity aspect of this, and it is evident that there has been a worsening of the experience of BME compared to white staff in key domains, including discrimination from seniors and a sense of equal opportunity. As we plan the recovery of services following the pandemic, addressing these issues of equality and inclusion are core to their success.”

The report states that the next steps on the journey of the WRES are:

  • to move the NHS onto the stage of advancing race equality by using detailed demographic analysis at organisational level
  • to encourage local, regional and national operations to implement bespoke improvement measures. System-wide learning is a key ambition for future implementation of the WRES.

Continued reviews of the inequalities rife within the NHS are required to ensure that it’s inclusive values and ethics are reflected in its employment record.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.