Two thirds of Black NHS Wales workers have experienced racism at work

Two thirds of NHS Wales’ Black workers have experienced racism at work, a joint survey between UNISON and ITV Wales has found.

The survey results paint a very troubling picture where it’s common for Black healthcare workers to suffer offensive racial comments from the public and a majority feel the colour of their skin has negatively impacted their NHS career.

At worst, patients use the ‘N’ word and have told Black NHS Wales staff they look like monkeys and ‘should get back to where they belong’. Patients have refused care from Black staff because of the colour of their skin. Patients have also questioned Black healthcare workers’ professional credentials without knowing anything about them.

One patient told their Pakistani healthcare worker that “all Pakistanis should be shot” and another asked their Asian healthcare worker if they had “brought Covid over.”

Many Black workers reported they are treated differently from other colleagues on the same issues including having fewer training and development opportunities. Others report being the target of colleagues ‘jokes’ because of the colour of their skin.

Key survey findings include: –

  • 67% of respondents experienced racism whilst working in the NHS;
  • 60% experienced racist harassment/ abuse from members of the public in the NHS;
  • 37% experienced racist harassment/ abuse from NHS colleagues;
  • 76% did not report the racism experienced;
  • Of those who reported the racism, 21% were not satisfied by the employer’s response;
  • 52% think their skin colour/ethnicity has had a negative impact on their career;
  • 12% often experience racism; 40% sometimes experience racism; 34% rarely experience racism; 14% never experience racism
  • During the Covid pandemic, 44% have not felt comfortable reporting their safety concerns;
  • During the Covid pandemic, 37% said their employer has not conducted a formal risk assessment on the risks they faced as a Black worker;
  • Asked what the employer should do to ensure Black staff are better valued and supported, better training for managers to tackle racism and more robust policies for challenging racist behaviour from patients were ranked highest by respondents

Kebba Manneh, chair of UNISON Black members said,

“Imagine going to work half-expecting you will be racially abused for simply doing your job. That’s what Black workers in the NHS in Wales face each day.

“Racism in all its forms is unacceptable and has to be confronted. That racist comments are made against people who are caring for those who are ill is incomprehensible.

“We can’t be blind to the structural racism that also exists. A majority of Black healthcare workers feel the colour of their skin has held their career back and most of those experiencing racism didn’t feel it was worth reporting it to their manager. Almost half have not felt comfortable reporting their safety concerns during the Covid pandemic, despite the virus’ clear disproportionate effect on Black people.

“Health boards must do more to ensure Black healthcare workers are better valued and supported and UNISON wants to work in partnership with them to develop better training for managers to tackle racism and more robust policies for challenging racist behaviour from patients and staff.

“Ultimately, we have to address the lack of Black people in senior leadership positions in NHS Wales and change that as quickly as possible, so the health service better reflects the society it serves.”

Notes for editors

  • UNISON uses the term ‘Black’ in a broad, political and inclusive term way for people with a shared history and experience of racism and reduced opportunities, rather than a reference to skin colour. UNISON’s use of the term Black is broadly consistent with the terms BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) or BME (Black and Minority Ethnic). This survey was open to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic healthcare workers.
  • There were 131 respondents to the UNISON/ ITV Wales survey of Black NHS workers from the 785 members who have permitted us to contact them under data protection regulations; a 17 per cent return.
  • Respondents also provided their worst examples of racism in the workplace. Other than the content of this release, this data cannot be shared with the media.



Alastair Gittins, UNISON Cymru Wales press officer on 07816 53 83 97