Racism in the NHS

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2018 Health Care Service Group Conference
8 December 2017

Conference notes that those who work in our NHS come from across the world with different experiences, backgrounds and beliefs, working together to deliver the best services possible.

Conference believes that there is no room for racism in the NHS, yet unfortunately is aware of an increase in racist incidents following the EU referendum last year. No one should experience such hate and abuse, and UNISON is working hard to ensure that these incidents are challenged.

Conference is in support of a formal reporting mechanism as a means of monitoring race equality in the NHS and Conference therefore welcomes the Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) report published this year, and its work analysing race equality. Conference is alarmed however about some of its findings. The reality that “BME staff remain significantly more likely to experience discrimination at work from colleagues and their managers” is unacceptable. The report also outlines that staff from these backgrounds are less likely than white colleagues to believe that their trust provides equal career progression opportunities. Conference recognises that the experiences of Black staff often differ to other colleagues and therefore continues to raise awareness about the discrimination present within the NHS, and actions branches can take to help campaign against this.

Conference notes publication of guidance for health branches, including the “Challenging prejudice” leaflet and “Challenging racism in the workplace” toolkit and resources, for use in negotiation and bargaining around race equality in the workplace, and for activists to feel confident in tackling such behaviour when it arises.

Conference also notes with concern that the Westminster government is planning to enforce new changes which will mean that hospital departments in England will be legally required to check the paperwork of every patient, before deciding whether they need to pay up front. Conference believes that this puts our members in a difficult position and could damage the relationship of trust patients have with healthcare staff, as where it is determined treatment is not urgently required, those unable to pay will be turned away until they make payment.

Although it is proposed that the final decision on whether to charge for treatment will lie with a doctor, it is likely that other staff including administrators will be expected to make initial decisions.

Conference believes that our members are here to make healthcare decisions, not act as immigration officials.

Conference calls on the Service Group Executive to:

1)continue work to highlight the positive contribution that staff from across the world make to the NHS;

2)promote UNISON’s “Challenging racism in the workplace” materials, and other national resources produced to allow health branches to remain well informed on policies;

3)engage with health branches, using feedback to contribute to the work of policy makers, ensuring trade union involvement in work to challenge racism;

4)use lobbying routes and policy channels to raise concerns about the impact of proposed new charging regulations of overseas patients, making sure branches are aware of UNISON’s position;

5)highlight the damaging effect that discrimination at work has on Black staff, and continue to challenge this behaviour.