• NHS England analysis finds patient experience is better at trusts where BME staff feel confident raising concerns
  • Academic also highlights “frightening” levels of violence experienced by staff from colleagues
  • Work pressure felt by staff also associated with patient satisfaction

Patients are more likely to have a good experience at a trust where black and minority ethnic staff feel secure in raising concerns, according to the academic who led an NHS England study.

The analysis for NHS England concluded the extent to which an organisation values its minority staff is a good barometer of how well patients are likely to feel cared for.

It also highlighted a “frightening” level of physical violence experienced by staff from colleagues.

Jeremy Dawson, professor of health management at the University of Sheffield, who led the study, said: “If the culture is such that BME staff have less confidence and safety in reporting concerns, this is a culture that transmits itself to patients.”

He told HSJ: “This is about the extent to which BME staff feel connected with others in the organisation and especially with senior colleagues,” Professor Dawson told HSJ. “Feeling they are not respected by senior colleagues is more of a consideration for BME staff.”

Professor Dawson said the results from NHS staff surveys have “constantly flagged up there is a different experience between BME staff and white staff”. He highlighted areas including “discrimination, bullying and harassment”, and stressed there is “real concern there”.

The study highlighted that the three most important factors for BME staff specifically were agreeing that their role makes a difference to patients, experiencing discrimination at work, and being able to contribute toward improvements at work.

The analysis also identified the most important factors associated with patient satisfaction, which included work pressure felt by staff, the belief a trust provides equal opportunities for career progression, and staff feeling satisfied with their quality of work.

Professor Dawson also stressed that staff feeling “misunderstood and misrepresented” leads to higher turnover leaving and more sickness absence through stress.

“In an environment where funding for NHS trusts is not going up substantially and most trusts facing a deficit, it is very difficult for an organisation to do anything substantially about that,” he said.

The analysis also highlighted the rate of physical violence experienced by staff from colleagues.

“It’s something that is a persistent problem,” said Professor Dawson. The levels [of physical violence] reported are frightening. Roughly 1 per cent report physical violence from colleagues and 1 in 1,000 from their immediate manager. While it doesn’t sound like a lot, in an NHS with over one million people it adds up.”

An NHS England spokesman said: “Building a more representative workforce is good for our staff and good for our patients. Last year’s comprehensive assessment of race equality within the NHS highlighted clear areas we need to improve, but also demonstrated important progress, including better representation of people from black and ethnic minority groups in senior roles.”