NHS staff racially abused whilst caring for patients: Sherwood Forest Hospitals launch anti-racism strategy

Posted Wednesday, February 9, 2022 12:26 PM

NHS staff racially abused whilst caring for patients: Sherwood Forest Hospitals launch anti-racism strategy

Sherwood Forest Hospitals is taking a firm stand against racism directed at its staff with the launch of a new anti-racism strategy.

Coinciding with the UK’s Race Equality Week, the strategy demonstrates the NHS Trust’s commitment to its staff and its determination to tackle a rise in racist and unacceptable behaviour by some patients and visitors. Supporting Race Equality Week’s theme of #ActionNotJustWords, the Trust is putting clear actionable steps in place to protect staff from racial abuse.

People from ethnic minorities make up almost 18% of the Trust’s workforce, which is higher than the local population of 5% (2011 census).

The Trust’s NHS Staff Survey results from 2020 show an almost 2% increase in ethnic minority colleagues experiencing harassment, bullying or abuse from patients, relatives or members of the public from 2019 to 2020. Whilst abuse towards white colleagues fell by 2.9% in the same period. Ethnic minority colleagues experiencing discrimination from other colleagues increased in the same period, whereas for white colleagues their experience remains stable.

“We are an inclusive employer and we are proud of our highly skilled colleagues who have a range of diverse backgrounds. We are proud to be a great place to work and belong, and we really hope all of our colleagues feel a true sense of belonging at Sherwood, both from their colleagues and those in our community who use our services.” said Ali Pearson, the Trust’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity lead.

“Sadly, in 2020, more than a quarter of our colleagues from ethnic minority backgrounds reported abuse from patients and visitors, and Trust-wide we have seen an increase in both verbal and physical aggression towards our colleagues. However, it is thought the actual figure is much higher as some of our teams feel that receiving abuse is ‘part of their job’ and do not report instances for escalation or investigation.

“This makes me feel incredibly sad and concerned. In order for Sherwood Forest Hospitals to continue to provide outstanding care to our patients, we need to ensure our teams and colleagues are looked after and protected from racial harm whilst at work.”

Ali continues: “We also know that some instances include colleague-on-colleague racism, which is equally unacceptable. Racism is not excused in our hospitals, whether from a patient, visitor or fellow colleague.”

The Trust’s anti-racism strategy outlines six key areas for development and learning for colleagues, patients and the local community: clear governance; communication; raising awareness; training and education; staff networks and Freedom to Speak Up; and managing complaints. 

Along with the strategy, the Trust is also launching a series of online training sessions for its colleagues this week, to empower them to speak up and take a stand against racial abuse from patients or visitors.

Suman Dove, Clinical Audit Assistant in Stroke Services and Sherwood’s Ethnic Minority Staff Network Lead said: “The strategy puts some real challenges to our senior colleagues, as well as members of the local community. We believe it will give colleagues the confidence to escalate and challenge these behaviours, knowing they have the full support of the Trust with them.

“These principles will give equal opportunities for all colleagues at Sherwood and aids a clear and precise pathway and guidance to accommodate a fair process and treat everyone equally.”

Darrell Kawooya, trainee doctor who was on rotation with Sherwood in 2021, experienced racial abuse from a patient he was caring for in EAU. His experience identified the need of a robust strategy at Sherwood to further protect colleagues from abuse. He said: “I was racially abused by a patient last year, who did not want me to care for them because of the colour of my skin. 

“I have trained many years to become a doctor and feel confident in my abilities to provide quality care, however, at the time, this incident made me feel inadequate. Fortunately, I was supported by a nurse who acted as an ally. 

“I advocate the implementation of this strategy, knowing that my story has supported its development. I hope that it will protect colleagues and provide education to staff and the public so that individuals do not have the experience I had whilst looking after a patient and providing care.

“Sherwood Forest Hospitals is home to people from many backgrounds and ethnicities, and racism has no place in the Trust or the NHS."

Manjeet Gill, Trust Non-Executive Director and Chair of Sherwood’s People, Culture and Organisational Development Committee is supportive of the strategy and said: “The racial abuse towards Darrell led to conversations from which the strategy was formed. Unfortunately, those conversations originated after Darrell experienced severe and unacceptable racist behaviour from the patient he was trying to care for.

“The strategy outlines some clear principles and asks patients and visitors in our hospitals to act respectfully and appropriately on our sites. Our passionate and talented teams do not deserve to experience these racist behaviours, and this strategy will protect them from further harm.”

Chief Executive, Paul Robinson, welcomes the new Sherwood strategy. He said: “We are extremely proud of our diverse workforce, which includes colleagues from more than 88 different countries. Together we deliver exceptional care and services to our local community.

“We are committed to making Sherwood a great place to work and receive care, and this strategy supports colleagues who experience racism; It is vital that they know that they are listened to and we will support and work with them to combat any racist behaviour in our hospitals.

“We also recognise that colleagues sometimes face racist behaviour from other colleagues, and this strategy applies equally to them. This is unacceptable behaviour which we will not tolerate in our hospitals.

“Sherwood’s anti-racism stance is simple, yet strong: Racism does not belong here.”

The strategy can be found on the Trust’s website here. Further engagement and updates will be shared with the local community periodically.

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