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Thursday, 11 March, 1999, 16:57 GMT
NHS told to get tough on racism
Black nurses
Many people from the ethnic minorities work in the NHS
People who are persistently guilty of racism in the NHS will face prosecution, the government has warned.

The Department of Health has told NHS managers to do everything possible to root out racism in the health service.

The move follows the announcement by Home Secretary Jack Straw last month that the Race Relations Act was to be extended to tackle racism in the NHS.

Health Minister John Denham pledged that there would be zero tolerance of discrimination whether caused by patients or staff.

Proactive approach

In a circular to managers across the service, the NHS Executive said 'employers must be proactive and positive in tackling racism'.

The government has circulated an action plan 'Tackling Racial Harassment within the NHS', drawn up following a major programme of research and consultation concentrating on the experiences and views of black and ethnic minority staff within the NHS.

National and local reference groups including black and other ethnic minority staff will be established to ensure the plan is implemented throughout the NHS.

The action plan will provide guidance and support for NHS organisations in developing and implementing action to tackle racial harassment in line with the recommendations of the Macpherson report on the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry.

The main points of action are:

  • By April 2000 every NHS employer will need to be in position to tackle racial harassment whether committed by staff or by patients;
  • Targets for reducing incidents will be set;
  • A major public awareness campaign targeted at staff and patients alike will highlight the impact of racial harassment and the fact that it will not be tolerated in any NHS setting;
  • Black and ethnic minority staff will be given support to confront harassment effectively;
  • Perpetrators of racial harassment will be challenged. Persistent perpetrators will face prosecution.

Racism has no place

John Denham
John Denham is determined to stamp out NHS racism
Mr Denham said: "Racism must have no place in the modern NHS. I am delighted to endorse this action plan and to commend it as a route map towards an NHS free of harassment and discrimination.

"I expect it to be followed by everyone in the service.

"The contribution of black and ethnic minority to the NHS is invaluable, but they are not being treated fairly.

"Staff are not paid to be targets of abuse and violence. It is simply unacceptable for people who come to work to care for others to put up with discrimination and prejudice whether from patients, visitors or other staff.

The NHS is the biggest employer of black and ethnic minority staff in the country.

Over 8% of directly employed staff in the NHS are from ethnic minority groups.

The action plan received full support from the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE).

Sir Herman Ouseley, chairman of the commission, said: "I welcome the systematic approach the Department of Health and the NHS Executive have taken to tackling racial harassment in the NHS.

"I look forward to seeing evidence of the action plan being effectively implemented and rigorously monitored."

See also:

17 Dec 98 | Health
Drive to stamp out NHS racism
24 Feb 99 | Health
NHS welcomes race scrutiny
09 Mar 99 | Health
Nurses tackle racism
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