|Please Share. #RacismAtKings|
Richards's nightmare experience in many ways characterises a common experience as related by many black NHS employees. In the 1950/60's the Windrush pioneering generation frequently were met with racial hostility and hatred.
Many faced comments such as being told to, "wash that dirty black off your skin", and face the most profound racial and physical abuse.
|Kings CEO Dr Clive Kay|
There is a deep irony that an institution whose purpose is to cure illness and disease appears to be an incubator of this enduring malady – but it comes as no surprise to thousands of black staff working there.
Over the course of making my soon-to-be-released documentary #RacismAtKings (more about that later) I interviewed very many current and former staff, who are or have worked at Kings College Hospital London. In this documentary, I feature Richard and others
The narrative I heard back from all was horrifyingly consistent with Richards's own terrible experience. Time and time again I heard workers speak of trying to confront racism and finding themselves becoming targeted by management as a result.
And these are not isolated examples, there is a much deeper systemic problem in Kings. That problem is reflected more broadly in the NHS nationally. Next time you have the opportunity to chat with a minority ethnic NHS worker, casually drop into the conversation "How are things for black people working in your hospital?"
No doubt some will be initially reluctant to speak badly of their employer – after all let's not forget most are there out of a sense of vocation, not self-interest. But with gentle encouragement, these NHS Black workers will withdraw their finger from the NHS dyke and a rush of fetid tales will wash away your disbelief.
Black and Asian nurses have a strong reputation for going the extra mile for patients. Doctors from all BAME backgrounds take a Hippocratic oath to do no harm "premium non-nocere,".
So much real and lasting harm is being done to black staff and patients inside the walls of our much-loved health service - which leads us back to Mr Hastings.
Let me briefly reiterate that the events that engulfed him making the point that these are are neither rare nor exceptional instances. A recent report by the NHS Leadership Academy states "racism is bubbling away in the background"
The report shows that things are in an incredibly bad way within the NHS with a massive 81% of acute hospital trusts, reporting a higher proportion of BAME staff, as compared to white staff stated they had "personally experienced discrimination" from their supervisor or colleagues, and there were similar results at 80% of ambulance trusts, 87% of community trusts and 73% of mental health and learning disability trusts.
The Workforce Race Equality Standard. A series of national, race equality progress reports, published annually to show the extent of progress made, also found a higher proportion of BAME NHS staff experiencing harassment, bullying and abuse from both patients and the public, responses constituted a staggering 44% of acute trusts, 60% of ambulance trusts, 65% of community trusts and 80% of mental health and learning disability trusts.
The majority of BAME staff questioned in the study, also said that they did not believe their organisation offered equal career progressions for BME and white staff this was true for black staff at 86% of acute trusts, 50% of ambulance trusts, 80% of mental health and learning disability trusts and a shocking 100% of community trusts.
All of this information is well documented, is in the public domain and widely reported. One has thousands of very serious questions given these appalling figures, is why despite all of the NHS commitment to tackling racial inequality over the last 20 to 40 years does this situation continue to exist?
The real reason for such stunning lack of progress, is that the leadership of the NHS including senior staff and the public treat racism like a common cold – it's irritating, rub song Vicks on your chest, take some cough syrup and wait for it to go away.
It is not until pneumonia claims a life that the system reacts with any sense of urgency. When a leading NHS Trust, such as Kings College Hospital in London, is ordered to pay £1m in damages to a former employee for outright and blatant racial workplace discrimination – what this case and these reports demonstrate is that the NHS, doesn't have a common cold, it has acute pneumonia misdiagnosed as a common cold.
|Dawn Broderick Kings Executive Director Workplace Development|
This particular incident began one bright morning when Mr Hastings, who was in a loading bay at the hospital, waiting for a parking space to become free. As he waited he became involved in a minor parking dispute and was subsequently sworn at by a white van driver. When Mr Hastings approached the van, which contained three men, he said the driver made a number of racially charged comments during a "war of words". In the heated argument, Mr Hastings said the contractor told him about his skin colour, telling him: "Careful it doesn't come off".
Mr Hastings said that when he gave the driver his name the white van man reacted with disbelief, apparently shocked that Richard had such an "English-sounding name". When the contractor found out he was a manager at the hospital, Mr Hastings said he exclaimed: "Look! They'll let anything happen here" yet another racially charged comment.
At one point the white van driver placed his hand on his forearm and he reacted by lifting his and in so doing unintentionally made contact with the contractor's face. Mr Hastings called the hospital's security office for help during the confrontation but nobody came to his aid. Black hospital staff take care of the nation's sick but frequently find themselves deserted by their employers and institutions when suffering from racist abuse or physical attack at work.
This begs the question who takes care of the black care-takers??
After the incident, Mr Hastings told colleagues what had happened and with their encouragement he reported it. But after an allegation was made that he assaulted white van man he was summarily suspended.
After a formal investigation by Kings, which the tribunal found was tainted by "unconscious bias", Mr Hastings was dismissed on the grounds of gross misconduct.
Kings had sacked him after an " investigation" that ignored his allegations that he had been subjected to racist abuse. Their flawed disciplinary process was also found, by the tribunal to have unfairly painted Mr Hastings as "the aggressor", based on their own preconceptions of him as an aggressive black man.
This is a common stereotype deployed against thousands of black male staff, but thankfully for Richard, on this occasion, the hospital car park CCTV footage showed the contrary.
Despite being the real aggressors the white van contractors were seen by the Trust as "the victims" during the investigation process. The tribunal found, as a matter of fact, that during the investigatory hearing Mr Hastings provided hard evidence of racial abuse and of foul and offensive language being directed at him, but this was not investigated. In fact, in reality, that evidence was ignored.
The employment tribunal quite rightly concluded, "by failing to investigate this the claimant was treated less favourably because of race."
Mr Hastings has been left "completely broken" by this experience. He has so far failed to re-establish his career despite applying for many jobs, had lost weight and had trouble sleeping. He told the Guardian newspaper at the time: "It was very hurtful but what was even more hurtful was the treatment from the organisation I'd been with for nearly 19 years. I was devastated. Each part of the process left me even more helpless. This whole thing over three years has taken a tremendous toll on my physical and mental health. It was totally unnecessary."
The tribunal said his evidence, "as a black man of Caribbean origin, was treated with unwarranted distrust and disbelief". By contrast, the tribunal found him to be an honest witness while identifying numerous inconsistencies and flaws in the opposing evidence.
A spokesman for the trust said: "The trust has apologised to Mr Hastings and we would like to extend that apology once again." He said the trust had implemented changes to improve support to staff. But haven't we heard this many times before, over the last 40 years?
These well-used platitudes are facile and an insult to the 200,000 black staff working in the NHS. As taxpayers we are the ones who foot the bill for the millions that are spent by incompetent managers, defending indefensible race claims.
As customers of the NHS, we are the ones who ultimately suffer because staff performance drops when staff are feeling abused, harassed and discriminated against. At a time when the NHS is casting its net around the world, to fill the current shortage of doctors and nurses, Can we really afford an NHS with a reputation for treating black people like tainted goods?
My best wishes go out to Mr Hastings, we shall continue to advocate for his colleagues at King's and tell their stories.
In coming weeks I am reaching out to Elliot Browne and others who are part of the £1m plus NHS compensation club to learn their views on how their cases have impacted practice in their former trusts.
In future blogs, I shall be throwing a searing spotlight on hotspots of bullying and racial harassment. Send me your stories. I'm hearing there is something "bubbling away in the background" in Berkshire – it shall come to light right here - watch this space.
If you have a case you like me to cover, that further exposes racism suffered by black workers within the National Health Service then please do contact me directly by emailing me all reaching out on social media.
That which is done in the dark must be brought into the light if we are to finally bring an end to the appalling working conditions black and ethnic minority workers within the NHS.
Lee Jasper will be speaking at the Unite branch meeting to take place on June 11th at 1pm taking place at Kings College Hospital, the boardroom. Contact Unite Branch Secretary Frank Wood for more details email email@example.com