RCPsych responds to report on racism in the NHS

Statement / comment
01 March 2024

The charity brap and Middlesex University have published a report, Too Hot to Handle, which warns the NHS is falling short in tackling racial discrimination. 

Responding to the report, Dr Lade Smith CBE, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:

“Racism is a blight that causes harm to individuals and hinders progress in all institutions, including the NHS. This report rightly challenges providers to “respond more fearlessly” to complaints of racial discrimination and aims to support them to do this. 

“We cannot allow healthcare staff from minoritised ethnic backgrounds to continue to be discriminated against. It is completely unacceptable that they are subjected to racial abuse from patients, unjust disciplinary action and restricted career progression.

“We have a global shortage of healthcare staff. These issues turn people away from the NHS and must be addressed if we are to improve recruitment and retention. Unfortunately, many HR processes inadvertently embed discrimination and traumatise those who try to use them. This allows racist and abusive behaviour to go unaddressed for years at a time and creates a toxic workplace environment for staff. 

“More needs to be done to support workers to report their concerns, however, this alone will not be enough. Services must be pro-active in their efforts to eliminate all forms of racism and deliver systemic change, now, not in another 75 years.

“The Royal College of Psychiatrists launched its Act Against Racism campaign to help drive change last year. We have called on mental health employers to adopt our 15 actions to tackle racism in the workplace.

“Many of these measures are supported by the Too Hot to Handle report. It recommends that organisations set standards of behaviour which challenge ‘everyday’ racism, co-produce an anti-racist strategy by engaging all of their staff and make better use of Freedom to Speak Up Guardians.

“We particularly appreciate the report advising services to act on early warning signs of racism by tackling discrimination more informally and without waiting for an individual to raise a concern. This is how patient safety concerns are managed and has great potential.

“Ultimately, we need more NHS services to implement the recommendations outlined in this report as well those in our own Tackling Racism in the Workplace report. This is the only way we will be able to create an NHS that is fit for the 21st century.”

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