Black Bean Counting Fails to Cure Epic #NHSRacism
There is an epidemic of racism within our beloved NHS. It is not only harming the career prospects of BAME staff it is literally killing some of them.
The more I looked into this area the more of a scandal appeared before me.
Aside from the recent case Of Richard Hastings previously of in Kings College Hospital London, an interesting case that garnered national headlines (my forthcoming documentary #RacismAtKings will be launched in the next few days), and as I have recently discovered there have been very many other standout cases.
One such case is Eliot Browne a 55-year old manager who was dismissed in 2008 by Central Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust. He was deemed by an employment tribunal to have suffered racial discrimination at the hands of his employer, and received an award of almost £1 million in damages. The Trust apparently never apologised to Mr Browne, and appealed against the tribunal decision. It subsequently lost the appeal. It was reported at the tribunal that witnesses for the Trust closed ranks and that disciplinary action was commenced against Mr Browne to get him sacked. A union official commented, “The systematic intimidation and bullying of a single individual, the like of which I have never seen in my career as a regional union officer, was breathtaking and callous”. Mr Browne is reported to have stated, “It is scandalous that this kind of behaviour should exist in an organisation whose prime purpose is to care for others”.
Of course Black people have not just been content to be punching bags in the battle for fir and decent treatment. The NHS BME Network gave an outstanding account of themselves in the fight for many years. The Network was led by Dr Vivienne Lyfar-Cissé a Principal Clinical Biochemist in Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals (BSUH) NHS Trust. During the early years she stood out as an unflinching advocate for race equality in the NHS. She Chaired a number of BME Networks including the Surrey and Sussex BME Network; the South East Coast BME Network and was the Transitional Lead for the NHS BME Network before being elected Chair of the Network in 2012.
Under Vivienne’s leadership The South East Coast BME Network published The Equality Service Reviewreport July 2008. It was not easy to acquire the data from the Trusts in the region but against incredible odds the review was completed and showed statistical evidence of the huge disparity in the experience of BME staff compared to their white counterparts. Vivienne went on to form the NHS BME Network which began the work of holding the NHS leadership to account at national level. The Network at its peak held conferences in Mayfair hotels attended by NHS leading lights with audiences of over 500 NHS professionals. There was a famous moment when David Nicholson (then NHS CEO) was summoned from his office by Network’s Annual Conference, subsequently mailing his apologies for not taking the time to appear in person.
Unfortunately, as with many black movements, internal and external political pressures caused fragmentation and its eventual decline.
Vivienne and her colleagues Dr Isaac John, Kenny Dhun, Henry Oblie, Nolan Victory and Joel O’Loughlin are the unsung heroes of the current approach to race equality watch out for forthcoming interviews with them on my You Tube Channel.
The report they published in 2008 established the basis for measuring the BME experience and led to 3 Trusts being issued Compliance Orders by the Equality & Human Rights Commission. This meant they were in breach of the Race Relation Amendment Act (2000) failing in their duty to tackle institutional racism. The methodology was picked up by Roger Kline a researcher in Research Fellow at Middlesex University Business Schoolwho published old wine in a new bottle in a report called ‘Snowy White Peaks’. The premise of the title is the higher you climb up the NHS hierarchy the whiter it gets. Roger went on to become the Director, Workforce Race Equality Standard (Research and Engagement) at NHS England. - Vivienne fell from grace and was fired for discrimination.
The NHS made implementing the Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) a requirement for NHS commissioners and NHS healthcare providers including independent organisations, through the NHS standard contract in 2015. From 2017, independent healthcare providers were also required to publish their WRES data.
The first WRES report, was published in June 2016, followed by the 2016 WRES report on 19 April 2017. In the first two years, not all the Trust provided quality data and what was produced showed appalling disparities which evidence systemic discrimination. It’s hard to criticise an evidence based approach to tackling a persistent blight on the NHS, but counting beans is useless unless you marry it up with action to make things better. There has been a marked lack of such initiatives. and today the NHS is experiencing an epidemic of racial discrimination and bullying of BAME staff.
It is time for the NHS to stop counting black beans and do something to kill the virus of discrimination which is making us all sick. Watch this space for news on my drive to flush the system of the virus and purge the NHS of racism.
If you are an NHS professional and have a personal story of racism or bullying get in touch here