The minority race and gender status of National Health Service (NHS) staff negatively influences their position, prestige and pay grade – a problem which may impact on the care provided by hospitals, new study suggests.
Research from Brunel University London reviewed data from the 2017 NHS Digital Workforce Statistics and found that people from ethnic minority backgrounds are mostly paid less and hold less prestigious positions within the NHS. They also discovered men were nearly three and a half times more likely to be doctors compared to women; and this pattern was consistent across all racial groups, with the largest imbalance being for white women. The study claims current equality initiatives are insufficient in addressing the discrimination.
“Chinese persons were the most likely to be employed as doctors, followed by Asians and people of mixed ethnicity; while White persons were less likely to be employed as doctors, they were still most likely to be in the highest paid doctor position,” said Dr Adrienne Milner, a researcher at Brunel, who led the study.
The research showed 46% of white doctors are consultants whereas only 33.4% of Chinese doctors are consultants. Black individuals are underrepresented both among doctors and as consultants at 30.6% and 6.5%, respectively. White people were also over-represented in higher pay bands for nurses and health visitors.
The claims highlight an ongoing problem in the public health service which could have potential effects on the service provided to patients.
“Diversity in the medical profession is an important contributing factor to health outcomes for race-ethnic minorities and women.
“A lack of diversity in respected positions leads to further disparities in those who are appointed to decision-making positions, such as Trust board members, which may result in the neglect of the most deprived communities the Trust serves,” said Dr Milner.
Although the government has promised to bolster staffing numbers in the NHS, it remains unclear how they will develop a fast-track system which doesn’t create further diversity imbalance.
“The results of our study indicate that the NHS continues to favour white and male candidates for the most prestigious and best compensated positions, even when they are statistically less likely to be represented in the applicant pool.
“The NHS should seek to diminish bias in hiring and promotions through measures such as requiring that those involved in the decision-making process undertake training, that committees are diverse, and that applications are blinded,” said Dr Milner.
The study says, to ensure fair representation of all groups in the NHS, the service must collect data using consistent race-ethnic categories in order to examine differences over time.
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The full study, Race-ethnic and gender differences in representation within the English National Health Service: a quantitative analysis, can be found in BMJ Open.
Simone McNichols-Thomas, Media Relations
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