Socialist Worker

Pay figures show scale of institutional racism in NHS

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2624

Black women workers fight for higher pay at Barts Health NHS Trust in east London

Black women workers fight for higher pay at Barts Health NHS Trust in east London (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Shocking new statistics have revealed the scale of institutional racism within the health service.

Black nurses are paid on average £2,700 a year less than their white colleagues, according to research by NHS Digital. And black doctors are paid on average nearly £10,000 a year less than white doctors.

This sort of pay inequality is made worse by sexism.

While a black male doctor earns £9,493 a year less, black women doctors earn £9,612 a year less than white colleagues. And black women nurses and midwives earn £2,700 a year less—compared to black male nurses and midwives who lose around £1,872.

The NHS Digital research is based on pay records of 750,000 health workers, including both medical and support jobs. While the agency only provided a detailed breakdown for doctors, nurses and midwives, the research shows that there is pay discrimination right across the NHS.

A black male health workers earns on average £5,796 a year less than white colleagues. This gap is smaller among black women workers—at £1,980 a year less—but that’s because women often work in lower-paid jobs.

Black nurses from Britain’s former colonies in the Caribbean played a crucial role in building up the NHS after the Second World War. They immediately faced institutional racism by being forced into lower-paid nursing roles.

While workers’ struggles and battles against racism have beaten back some of that institutional racism, the research shows how it persists.


Donna Kinnair is the acting chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN). “As a black woman who spent a career in NHS nursing, nobody feels stronger about this than me,” she said.

“For the first time these figures show the shocking scale of the challenge we face to make sure black staff are represented at every level of our healthcare system.”

Equalities report shows the institutional racism facing workers in the NHS
Equalities report shows the institutional racism facing workers in the NHS
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She added, “The enormous pay gaps highlighted here reflect the appalling lack of diversity at senior roles.

“Black staff make up 25 percent of the NHS workforce, but this dwindles to just 7 percent of senior managers.”

Alongside being paid less than white colleagues and not reaching top jobs, equality reports from hospitals shows black workers face a host of discrimination. Analysis of Homerton University Hospital’s equality figures revealed one area where black workers are overrepresented.

Of 142 disciplinary cases at the east London trust in 2016, 59 percent were against black workers—compared to 18 percent against white workers.

Such figures flow from racism within wider society—and requires a fight by black and white workers to beat it back.

That’s why it’s important that health workers at the Homerton leafleted against racism on Thursday. They are preparing for a campaign on “institutional racism in our workplace”.

It was part of a broader day of action against racism in towns, workplaces and campuses organised by Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) building a programme of demonstrations.

Unions and activists need to take the Homerton workers’ lead—and drive such campaigns against racism into every workplace.

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