Race really matters says RCM calling for urgent NHS action

on 26 May 2021 Covid-19 BAME Race matters

Urgent action is needed to root out racism and inequality from the NHS says the Royal College of Midwives (RCM). Calling for the NHS to be a genuinely equal and inclusive employer, the RCM says it must champion and deliver equality for its Black, Asian, and other minority ethnic staff.

The RCM is also challenging itself and is committing more support to its activists to work with the NHS on delivering equality promises and policies made by the NHS and UK governments. These aims are at the heart of the latest development in the RCM’s Race Matters initiative and outlined in a new statement published today to mark its first anniversary.

Zeenath Uddin, Head of Quality and Safety at the RCM and lead on Race Matters, said: "We must root out racism and inequality wherever we find it. Significant inequalities still exist directly affecting the health, wellbeing and safety of midwives, maternity support workers and other NHS staff.  This racism and the inequality it breeds is not just the act of individuals; it is part of the very fabric of the NHS itself. The system is part of the problem and ending discrimination must focus on individual and organisational change.”

The RCM’s statement lays out starkly the level of racism and inequality in the NHS. Black, Asian and minority ethnic midwives and maternity support workers (MSW) experience more bullying, harassment and discrimination at work than white colleagues and are more likely to face disciplinary proceedings. They are also significantly less likely to get jobs after shortlisting than their white colleagues. This inequality is documented in countless reports and surveys, says the RCM. It also points to the under-representation of Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff in senior midwifery positions, with less than 10 of England’s 136 maternity units having a Head or Director of Midwifery of colour.

The pandemic has thrust these issues into the open and cannot be ignored anymore, says the RCM. Black and Asian NHS staff are more at risk from COVID-19 than white staff, with death rates far higher.

Zeenath Uddin added, “Racism and discrimination can mean the difference between life and death. It is that serious, and its effects can be that profound and life changing. The RCM is committing itself to do more, and the NHS and educational institutions training the next generation of health professionals must do likewise. We must learn lessons, we must change things, and we must strive to stop any forms of racism in its tracks.”

Discrimination also affects people even before they work in the NHS, says the RCM, referring to the inequalities in the education system. Potential students who are Black or Asian are less likely to get onto midwifery training courses, and most midwifery educators (95%) identify as white. The RCM calls on educational institutions to work harder to recruit students from more diverse backgrounds and understand and address why there is such a lack of diversity in teaching staff.


To contact the RCM Media Office call 020 7312 3456, or email [email protected]

Notes to editors

The RCM Position Statement ‘Racism in the Workplace’ can be read at Publications (rcm.org.uk)

For more information on the RCM’s Race matters initiative see https://www.rcm.org.uk/supporting/race-matters/.

The RCM is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance, and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences, and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website.