British Black nurses battle twin pandemics of racism and coronavirus survey reveals
Nurse Efe Obiakor stood at the front of the crowd, looking up proudly as her 18-year-old daughter Ada took center stage at a Black Lives Matter rally in central London.
“Let’s use this opportunity to have a community heal,” Ada told protesters as they poured into a sunny Hyde Park.
Obiakor was there to support her daughter, the lead organizer behind the June 20 anti-racism demonstration, but also to advocate for herself.
“As a Black nurse, it’s very important for me to come out today because in the system where I work, and in the NHS as a whole, there is racism,” Obiakor explained.
A practice nurse with 12 years’ experience, Obiakor, from London, says she has long faced discrimination and harassment in the UK’s public health care system, known as the National Health Service (NHS).
And she’s not alone.
According to Interviews by CNN with a dozen Black nurses across the UK’s healthcare sector. From students to medics with decades of experience, they work in different roles and different settings — hospitals, care homes and clinics — up and down the country.
They all say they have experienced racism in the workplace — and that it has gotten worse amid the coronavirus outbreak.
They told CNN the pressures of the pandemic have exacerbated existing racial inequalities, leaving Black nurses vulnerable to harassment and discrimination.
They say they have been pressured to treat Covid-19 patients without proper personal protective equipment (PPE), to work in the highest-risk areas with larger caseloads, and left too scared to speak out, for fear of reprisals.
Their testimony highlights what they say is a pattern of systemic racism in one of the world’s most highly regarded public health care systems.
In response to these 12 testimonies of racism, NHS England said, “Covid-19 has shone a spotlight on stark health inequalities in our country.”
The statement added, “Every NHS organization is expected to prioritize and carry out risk assessments for their BAME [Black, Asian, and minority ethnic] staff and other vulnerable groups as a matter of urgency, but in addition do everything possible to eliminate discrimination, and ensure the right processes are in place to address it swiftly and effectively.” The organization did not respond to allegations of PPE shortages.
‘It’s us again!’
Obiakor says she doesn’t trust the system to hear black nurses and correct discrimination.
“What it means daily is: I am not treated fairly,” she told CNN. “I don’t have a voice. Nobody is ready to listen to me. I might be screaming, they know I am screaming, but they are not ready to take action.
That’s how it feels as a Black nurse.”
When seriously ill coronavirus patients began flooding UK hospitals as the pandemic took hold in mid-March, Obiakor says she knew who would bear the brunt of the burden.
“We are used to the Blacks being on the front line, so when we came in all we said is: ‘It’s us again!'” she said with an ironic laugh. “We were not surprised.”
Carol Cooper, who is the manager of Equality, Diversity and Human Rights at an NHS Trust in England, has been attending listening sessions on race and equality in the wake of the public health crisis sparked by coronavirus. She says it was inevitable that Black nurses would find themselves on the front lines of the fight against Covid-19.
“This is indicative of a larger trend,” said Cooper, when CNN shared its findings with her. “These are not random voices. These are the experiences being echoed all over the country.
“We are the faceless people in the back, but our talents never bring us to the upper echelons. That needs to stop,” she said. “There needs to be a very honest reckoning in the NHS.”
One in five of all nurses across England are from Black or minority ethnic backgrounds, but about 95% of executive directors of nursing are white, according to a 2019 report from NHS England.
For 42-year-old community nurse Monifa Thompson, the reckoning can’t come soon enough.
Read the full article here: https://edition.cnn.com/2020/07/10/europe/black-nurses-nhs-discrimination-gbr-intl/index.html