Tackling race inequality and discrimination in the NHS

The aim of Professor Lilian Otaye-Ebede’s project is to explore the lived experiences of Black and ethnic minority experiences with the aim to provide recommendations that could tackle race inequality in the NHS trust.


For decades research has shown that discrimination, harassment, and exclusion are pervasive experiences for staff from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds in the National Health Service (NHS). In recognition of limited progress in achieving equity for all staff, the NHS agreed to have a mandatory workforce race equality standard (WRES). The standard requires NHS organisations to collect baseline information from April 2015 on nine indicators of workforce equality for ethnic minority staff, including representation on boards, and to publish annual updates on these metrics.

The WRES commenced in 2015, and after four years of data collection have robust information outlining the different experiences of black and minority ethnic (BME) and white staff, across the NHS.  Since the inception of the WRES, organisations have been working hard to close the gap on the experiences of BME and white staff and as WRES data show, the NHS has been relative successful in closing the gap on three of the 9 NHS WRES indicators. Indicators 2,3 and 4 have improved, however indicators 5,6,7,8 and 9 have remained relatively static. 

The aim of this project (working alongside colleagues from Sheffield University and the WRES team), is therefore to explore the lived experiences of black and ethnic minority experiences with the aim to provide recommendations that could tackle race inequality in the NHS trust and begin the process to implementing effective cultural change, thereby closing the gap on NHS WRES indicators 5, 6, 7 and 8.

The emphasis here is on identifying the root causes, consequences and robust solutions to closing the gaps between BME and white staff perceptions of discrimination, bullying, harassment and abuse – and reducing the overall levels of these indicators for all staff.


My research till date highlights issues to do with racial discrimination in organisations particularly the difficulties of career progression, experiences of microaggression, bullying and harassment, and the lack of institutional strategies available to resolve these persistent and pertinent issues. These issues are even more pronounced for black and ethnic minority (BME) individuals, particularly in public sector organisations across the UK. 

The proposed impact and research will build on my research findings by specifically exploring ways in which racial discrimination within the NHS can be reduced through a cultural change initiative designed alongside the NHS Work Race and Equality Standard (WRES) team.


For this project, impact will be derived through collaborative partnership between myself, research colleagues and with the NHS WRES team. Through this collaboration, we will co-produce knowledge which could provide performance-driven solutions that will have lasting benefits within the NHS.

In summary, the proposed research is designed to make the following impact:

  • changes to culture and deep-rooted bias systems
  • transformation of culture across the NHS in England underpinning the national strategy, Developing People, Improving Care
  • evidence of improvement to working environment for BME staff.

In addition to research outcomes, a project report will be written providing NHS with clear guidance and recommendations on how to create a more equitable working environment for BME staff. This will be share quite widely and would hence potentially have an impact on other public sector organisations who adopt the recommendations.

Early impact has been demonstrated through the co-creation of an evidence-based Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) knowledge transfer website - Workplace Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (workplaceedi.com) developed through funding obtained from a range of institutions including the NHS, and is now co-maintained by the NHS. Evidence of user engagement has shown demonstrable impact particularly within public sector organisations.

Professor Lilian Otaye-Ebede

Professor Lilian Otaye-Ebede

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