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NHS trusts working in Waltham Forest, Redbridge and Havering are failing to significantly tackle discrimination against non-white staff from higher-ups, according to staff survey data.
Around a third of non-white employees at Barts Health NHS Trust and Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust (BHRUT) do not feel they have an equal chance at getting promotions.
At Barts more than 600 BAME staff said they had experienced discrimination from managers or team leaders in the last year, compared to less than 200 of white staff.
These worrying trends were revealed by last year’s national NHS staff survey, published on February 18.
Alan Ridley, senior officer at RCN, a union with thousands of members across the two trusts, said: “There’s quite a lot of tension between staff and there does seem to be a difference in how BAME staff are treated.
“There’s still very much an issue that BAME staff find it more difficult to get promotions and are more likely to lose out to white colleagues when they otherwise appear to be equally well-qualified.
“In both cases there’s been a slight improvement on last year’s data but we have to recognise it is out of step with the average nationally and in London.”
Barts Health NHS Trust runs five hospitals, including Whipps Cross University Hospital in Leytonstone. BHRUT, meanwhile, runs King George Hospital in Ilford and Queen’s Hospital in Romford.
Alan added: “I know that BHRUT are very keen to resolve these issues, we are working closely with them in relation to this data.
“They are trying to embed a cultural change that involves better inclusion and involvement of different groups and, as with any cultural change, it’s a slow process.
“BHRUT at least are trying to head in the right direction, it’s a case of time will tell to see if they achieve that.”
Responding to the staff survey data, David Amos, interim Director of People and Organisational Development at BHRUT, said: “Any form of discrimination across our Trust is completely unacceptable and we are absolutely committed to tackling this.”
He claimed it was “an issue across the entire NHS” and that the trust has been “carrying out work for a number of years to improve equality, diversity and inclusion”.
“This has gathered pace in response to recent staff survey results,” he said, “However, we know that we still aren’t getting it right for all of these members of staff.
“A network for staff from BME backgrounds was set up to encourage people to share their experiences and ideas on how we can improve.
“This has already led to a number of measures being implemented such as diversity partners sitting on interview panels to make our recruitment process more inclusive.
“Our most recent survey results have shown improvements in some areas which we welcome, whilst recognising there is much more to do.
“All of this is underpinned by the work we are carrying out across our Trust to change the culture of our working environment for all of our staff, which will in turn also improve patient care.”
While only 13.7 per cent of Barts staff said they experienced discrimination from other staff in the last year, this was 0.1 per cent shy of the worst result at any of 135 acute trusts nationwide.
After praising the work done at BHRUT, RCN officer Alan Ridley said: “I wish I could say something similar in relation to Barts.
“We have been working with Barts and I am sure they will say they have tried a number of initiatives over the years.
“Unfortunately, as the data suggests, there is not much movement, which does bring into question whether their actions are rhetoric rather than reality.”
A spokesperson for Barts Health NHS Trust spokesperson said they are “an inclusive trust and do not tolerate discrimination of any kind”, referencing a number of initiatives to support BAME staff.
These include “a staff diversity network, a dedicated inclusion team who run training sessions and are available to support colleagues who have concerns, and an independent Freedom to Speak Up Guardian who works across sites”.
They added: “We are also dedicated to improving career opportunities and recruitment practice, run a bespoke career development programme for BAME staff and have trained over 80 inclusion ambassadors to sit on job interview panels.”