Black, Asian and migrant nurses have made a critical contribution to the NHS and social care. The current coronavirus outbreak has laid bare structural inequalities. In the first month of the UK lockdown, 71% of nurses and midwives who died were from black and Asian backgrounds (HSJ, April 2019). In February 2022, a Public Accounts Committee recognised that the government “does not know enough about the experience of frontline staff, particularly BAME staff”. It asked the government to consider the “extent to which (and reasons why) BAME staff were less likely to report having access to PPE and being tested for PPE and more likely to report feeling pressured to work without adequate PPE”. The October Lessons Learned report recognises that ‘the higher incidence … may have resulted from higher exposure to the virus’, but there is little address to racism in the report.
Our project “Nursing Narratives: Racism and the Pandemic” has taken a grassroots approach to understand the experiences of ethnic minority background staff during the pandemic. A total of 354 Black and Brown staff members (308 survey respondents and 46 narrative interviews) participated in the study to share their experiences of racism at work, both during and before the pandemic. Nineteen nurses and midwives have spoken out about their experiences of racism in the project’s groundbreaking new film, EXPOSED. Most study participants did not see racism as an individual, isolated behaviour but a structural practice embedded in the institutional culture. This was further exposed in the pandemic with devastating consequences.
The project is funded by the AHRC/UKRI Rapid Response to COVID-19 research call. The project report is available to read and download on the website.
The project team include:
Principle Investigator: Professor Anandi Ramamurthy, Sheffield Hallam University
Co-Investigators: Dr Sadiq Bhanbhro, Sheffield Hallam University and Dr Faye Bruce, Manchester Metropolitan University
Principle Partner: Dr Ken Fero, Migrant Media
Research Associate: Freya Collier-Sewell, Sheffield Hallam University
An Anti-Racist Health Service: A Manifesto for Change
The nurses and midwives have collaborated to produce an Anti-Racist Manifesto for Change that is available on the Nursing Narratives website. Individuals and organisations can sign up in support of the manifesto on the website.
The groundbreaking documentary Exposed combines the stories of 19 Black, brown and migrant nurses and midwives who spoke about their powerful experiences of racism before, during and after the pandemic. A link to the film is available here.
Nursing Narratives and IFNA
Given the IFNA vision of a compassionate family focus on health, social justice, human dignity and respect for all, this project provides valuable insights for its diverse membership to endorse the Anti-Racist Manifesto for Change and demand concrete actions to eradicate racialised practices. The IFNA members can use the project resources for their personal growth and development of the induction and training material.
Sadiq Bhanbhro, Senior Research Fellow, Sheffield Hallam University