Health workers in Scotland face an “extremely worrying” rise in racist abuse as exclusive new analysis reveals the number of incidents reported by staff has more than doubled in the past five years.
A series of freedom of information requests submitted to every NHS board has uncovered an increase of 117%, from 213 in 2018/19 to 437 in 2022/23.
There has been a 50% rise in the past two years alone and medical professionals warn racism is now an everyday occurrence in Scotland’s NHS.
Greater Glasgow and Clyde had the largest number of incidents, with a staggering 174 reports last year. NHS Lothian dealt with 91, while Grampian had 54.
A total of 39 reports were made in Tayside, along with 20 in the Highlands, 18 in Fife, and two in Shetland.
The full extent of the problem is likely to be even greater as NHS Dumfries and Galloway claimed it does not hold information about the number of racist incidents in its hospitals in a reportable format. Forth Valley also did not provide information.
Unions describe the dramatic rise as shameful and are calling for the Scottish Government and health boards to do more.
Dr Sajid Farid, chair of BMA Scotland’s race equality forum said: “It is hugely worrying that racist incidents reported by NHS staff have increased so dramatically.
“Racism of any form is never acceptable, and particularly so in these circumstances, where those on the receiving end are simply going about their jobs caring for the people of Scotland.
“We need to tackle this kind of behaviour as a society – of course it is not confined to the NHS and those needing care.
“But where it does occur in the NHS, we need clear support from employers to make sure it is clear that this will not be tolerated and for staff who are the victims and will require care for the often exceptionally difficult circumstances they have faced.”
Rakiya Suleiman, an NHS worker and member of Unison’s black workers committee, said staff should not have to put with discrimination of any kind.
She said: “This is a shameful statistic but unfortunately it does not surprise me. And let’s remember that most cases go unreported.
“Unison provides employment advice to NHS workers facing discrimination and, in our experience, racism is an everyday occurrence in the workplace in Scotland.
“Workers in frontline services, many of whom are who are low paid, tend to get it more than others.”
Eileen McKenna is associate director at the Royal College of Nursing Scotland.
She said minority ethnic staff are less likely to be shortlisted for jobs, more likely to face disciplinary action, and more likely to report harassment, bullying and abuse from patients.
McKenna wants NHS boards and ministers to ensure staff are able to do their jobs without fear of discrimination.
She said: “Racial discrimination is never acceptable and must be rooted out.
“That there has been a 50% increase in the number of racist incidents reported by NHS Scotland staff over the past two years is extremely worrying.
“Sadly we know that our minority ethnic nursing staff are facing race discrimination each and every day.”
The figures were revealed following analysis by the Scottish Liberal Democrats.
Party leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said it makes him sad to think of hardworking NHS staff or vulnerable patients facing racial abuse.
He said: “The fact that incidents have risen sharply in the past five years should be a shot across the bows of anyone who thinks that Scotland is immune to this kind of appalling behaviour.
“Ministers and health bosses must ensure that reporting procedures are up to scratch and that all staff know what to do when confronted by racist incidents.
“Everyone should feel secure and supported in their place of work, especially when that place of work is a place of healing and recovery.”
What does the government say?
The Scottish Government said there is no place for racism or any other form of discrimination in the NHS – or anywhere else.
It said it expects all health boards to ensure any reported incidents are taken seriously and fully investigated.
A spokesman added: “We have a programme of work underway to integrate anti-racist/anti-discriminatory approaches and develop networks of allies across the NHS.
“We also established the NHS ethnic minority forum in 2021 and are working with the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights to develop anti-racist training resources for NHS staff.”
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe