Racism in Healthcare

Surviving Work in Healthcare




Roger “On everything else apart from racism the NHS is run on data. You’ve got an MRSA outbreak on a ward – you look at the data, talk to the staff, look elsewhere in the organisation to see how they’ve dealt with it and set up a learning loop. Since race discrimination is bad for patient care, you have to do the same. Start with the data, listen to the staff and that’s the start of the conversation. For a lot of organisations they have had to look at data that’s very uncomfortable to look at. If you’re in a large teaching hospital where its four times more likely that BME staff will be disciplined than white staff you cant change those numbers without understanding why its happening.”



Coreene “It’s all about power. If you’re in a leadership role and you don’t understand culturally whats happening it can be interpreted in lots of different ways. BME staff often become that person, you become the whistleblower, you become the ‘sensitive’ person who is always accusing other people of racism. I can see that in a community of other professionals you can confirm that experience because generally that’s not the way that most people are thinking.”



Roger “There’s data that shows on average Black and Minority Ethnic staff who go for jobs are better qualified than white staff. We have people on Band 6 and 7 with Masters in Business Administration who say I can’t get a job in the NHS. Well actually, the MBA isn’t the way to get the job. You’ve only done the MBA because to some degree you know you’re good, you weren’t recognised in the way that other people were so you think, right, I’ll go and do another qualification. But actually the reason you didn’t get the job was because you weren’t part of the club. No number of qualifications will get you into the club until the rules of the club change.”



Coreene “I’m curious if we think of this idea of an internal bully, just how many black and minority ethnic people that get told as they grow up that to achieve anything you have to be better. So for someone to come directly and challenge you and say ‘you’re not better’, actually that voice is already inside you.”



Roger “People who are being bullied can eventually start to think well maybe its me? Its common for whistleblowers that once the retaliation takes the form of bullying they start to think well maybe I’m not such a good worker after all. Even though all their previous records will show generally they are exemplary employees which is probably why they became a whistleblower because they wouldn’t tolerate poor practice.”



Coreene “On an individual level the way to defend against racism is to trust your instincts and to recognise that what is happening is actually happening. You disbelieve yourself – surely this isn’t what’s happening? Then you have to start to find a safe way to try to expose it, recognising its risky, its always risky because the fear is that you’re not going to be believed. So believing in yourself is a good starting point. Then finding people who you can trust to tell you the truth – bearing in mind that some people will always feed into any drama that’s going on, but you have to find people you trust.”




To hear the full conversation with Roger Kline and Coreene Archer go HERE.


To listen to the podcasts of this conversation click on the links below:

1. What the data says about discrimination

2. Why data matters

3. The characteristics of a racist workplace

4. How we respond to whistleblowers is central to tackling racism

5. There is a link between racism and patient care

6. What’s driving discrimination in healthcare?

7. Why blame cultures are so dangerous

8. How do you get genuine diversity?

9. I’m really angry about it

10. There’s a powerful silencing of the victim

11. BME staff are more qualified then they need to be

12. How can we get over racism?

13. Holding leadership to account


Surviving Work in Healthcare is a free online resource Surviving Work in Healthcare designed for people working on the frontline. The website is a joint project by Surviving Work and the Tavistock & Portman NHS Foundation Trust offering podcasts, videos and survival guides that take a jargon free, de-stigmatizing and practical approach to addressing the real problems of working in healthcare.




We have developed these resources to be used on the frontline of health care. We hope that you can use them in your activities, meetings and trainings. Just send the link www.survivingworkinhealth.org to anyone you think would find them useful. These resources are free –  all we ask is that you respect the copyright and attribute the resources to the authors when you use them.

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