Support BAME healthcare professionals

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The theme of this blog is to consider how we can support BAME healthcare professionals within the workplace to improve inclusivity and diversity.  There are 1.7 million healthcare professionals in the NHS workforce. Of that number, the NHS Government website reports that 22.1% of the workforce are from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.  

There are disproportionately reported and subjected to fitness to practise referrals, as a group. This has consequences for retaining and recruiting BAME people into the NHS workforce. 

It might be helpful to watch this video produced by Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. It shows BAME healthcare professionals sharing their experiences of working for the NHS, particularly during the pandemic: The BAME experience.

In this video it highlights the danger the BAME workforce faced when caring for people diagnosed with Covid-19.  What it highlights is the need to have a voice, break down barriers and improve communication and respect for each other.  Demonstrating the need to support BAME healthcare professionals on multiple levels.

What are the benefits of having BAME healthcare professionals?

When talking about the BAME community, people often speak of inclusion and diversity. Consequently, cultivating and engaging diverse thought processes, opinions, and experiences from multicultural groups and settings allows for very productive workplace environments (Hofhuis et al, 2016). As a consequence, this can enable improved outcomes of care for patients.  

Enhanced communication

When we have a diverse healthcare workforce, we have a greater opportunity to consider the diverse needs of our patients. We have a better opportunity to consider differences in cultures and ways of communicating with and interacting with others. We can help people make more informed choices about their care and treatment options by doing this. But also understand their perspectives and opinions. This is so important when you consider that the UK’s overall population compromises approximately 10 million people from the BAME community.

Translation support

Another benefit to having BAME healthcare professionals as part of the NHS workforce is that many may know or be familiar with another language.  It may be more challenging to gain immediate access to a translator for Gujarati or Igbo. If a professional translation service is not readily available, it can be really helpful to ask a colleague to help translate for you at short notice.

Watch this video created by the BAME Staff Network at Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust.  The video highlights the importance of developing a diverse workforce Fairness for all – our BAME Staff Network

Understanding inequalities

BAME healthcare professionals may have more experience and exposure to health problems predominantly faced by BAME communities.  This may include health inequalities.  Examples of health inequalities faced by BAME communities, as highlighted by The Kings Fund include,

  • The maternal mortality rate is four times higher for women of Black ethnic backgrounds and twice as high for women of Asian ethnic backgrounds compared to women of white backgrounds. 
  • South Asian groups show more incidence, prevalence and mortality from cardiovascular disease.
  • Black ethnic groups have lower rates of access to cardiovascular care services. 

A lot of the health inequalities faced by BAME communities can arise due to bias and inaccessibility to care services.  This is evidenced in a video produced by NHS England in relation to patients diagnosed with cancer Learning from the experience of BME cancer patients – Bias 

How can we support BAME healthcare professionals?

Speak out against mistreatment and discrimination

The NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) report for 2021 found that discrimination against BAME staff in the workplace has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic began. 

Remember, it can be challenging for an individual on the receiving end of injustice or a discriminatory act to speak up about it. They don’t want to worsen a bad situation and don’t want to be labelled a troublemaker. With that in mind, we can offer support to our BAME colleagues in times of need.  This might involve us speaking out when witnessing injustice and discrimination. 

Watch this video by The King’s Fund discussing the experiences of BAME NHS workers: What’s it like being a member of staff from an ethnic minority background in the NHS?

Support them in their career progression

In 2020, only 7.5% of executive directors in trusts were from a BAME background. Although this figure has risen, it is still disproportionate to the percentage of BAME staff working in the NHS.    

As colleagues, you can support BAME healthcare professionals and colleagues, by supporting them when they bring new ideas to the workplace or go for leadership positions, whether formally or informally.

Watch this video by Bolton NHS Foundation Trust detailing their BAME Staff Development Leadership Programme: BAME Staff Development Leadership Programme

Listen and support

When we see a colleague face any form of discrimination or hardship showing sensitivity and a listening ear can be very helpful. Create a supportive environment for them to talk. Examples of the support we can offer are shown in this video by Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust: How we support BAME staff

In summary

There is a long way to go to create a better, inclusive and supportive working environment.  But, strides are being made in the right direction. The videos in this blog help to demonstrate this. Yet, we can do more to help people feel valued and supported. We hope that this blog helps to encourage that support and pulls together some useful resources.

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