Today, we revisit a letter that Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock sent to NHS staff just under a year ago, where he addresses racism within the NHS following alarming reports of racial abuse against NHS staff.
Matt Hancock - Photo Credit : Cambridge-news
In his letter, he openly condemned the abuse of NHS staff, especially the ones based on race. Having witnessed racism himself on night shifts, he emphasized how this is something no member of staff should have to go through. He also expressed his concern about how some members of staff have been remaining silent about the mistreatment they receive due to fears of not being supported if they came forward with such allegations.
He went on to reassure all concerned staff that racial abuse within the NHS was not acceptable and shouldn’t be tolerated. His advice to staff was “If you face abuse, do not accept it. If you see a colleague being abused, do not ignore it. If you know of an employee facing this, do not stand for it” He also advised management to be more supportive in situations where patients might request to be seen by white healthcare professionals, in which case the answer should always be "No". He urged everyone within the NHS to work towards eradicating racism, and not expect the victims of racist abuse to be the only ones facing it and tackling it alone.
“If you face abuse, do not accept it. If you see a colleague being abused, do not ignore it. If you know of an employee facing this, do not stand for it”
Mr Hancock highlighted how important it was to not only eradicate racial abuse but also support staff from Black and Minority ethnic background achieve fulfilling careers within the NHS. He made a reference to the Workforce Race Equality Standard as a vital part of facilitating this, encouraging all NHS trusts to implement it. He emphasized that senior management within Trusts have a responsibility to make clear that racial abuse towards Black and minority staff was totally unacceptable.
He ended the letter showing full support to all NHS staff in their fight to challenge racism and discrimination any time they happen.
Fast forward to 2020, in his speech “ The Future Of Healthcare” he did back in July, Mr Hancock restated his support towards ethnic minorities by expressing his concerns about the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 virus on Black and Minority ethnic people both within and outside the NHS. He went on to challenge the Prime Minister to “level up” by ensuring everybody’s health is the best it can be regardless of their origins or social economic background. In his opinion, this can only be achieved by “asking difficult questions” about how discrimination is embedded within the British society influencing things such as who has access to working from home or who is financially secure enough to look after their health.
Mr Hancock’s letter is a reminder that tackling racism and discrimination both within and outside the NHS is still vital. Racism is being strongly condemned from the top but tackling it in the lower ranks of the NHS system is not as efficient as it should be, with nurses from ethnic backgrounds still experiencing high levels discrimination based on their race/origins. So many staff from ethnic minorities dedicate their life to the NHS, they should be supported every step of the way in their career with the same vigour that Mr Hancock has expressed in his letter.