Date of release: Friday, April 28, 2017

Liz WestBlack and ethnic minority (BME) nurses and midwives are more likely than white colleagues to be reported by their employers to professional regulators as potentially not fit to practise.

The differential treatment of BME nurses and midwives is revealed in a landmark report by Greenwich researchers led by Elizabeth West, Professor of Applied Social Research at the university's Faculty of Education & Health.

It is the first time the organisation responsible for upholding professional standards, the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) has commissioned research into its Fitness to Practise (FtP) procedures by an independent group of academics.

Professor West says the research raises complex issues which require further investigation.

Findings also suggest that, while BME nurses and midwives are likely to go further along the FtP process, white and those of unknown ethnicity are more likely than their BME colleagues to receive a judgement which means that they can no longer work as a nurse or midwife.

Several other factors are shown to be associated with increased risk of being referred to the NMC, including being older (especially between the ages of 40 and 60), being male and having trained in Africa.

Talking about her report, Professor West says: ""After discussions with stakeholders, the NMC commissioned research to help identify the extent to which BME nurses and midwives are represented in fitness to practise cases. This was after concerns had been raised following extensive, qualitative research into the experiences of BME nurses and midwives working in the UK.

"Our analysis, based on a review of the previous literature and statistical analysis of NMC administrative data, suggests there is work to be done in improving communications between health employers and their BME nurses and midwives. Some of the cases that are currently referred to the NMC could perhaps be resolved locally."

Professor West says the report, while ground breaking in the profession, needs to be treated with caution.

"Up to 40 per cent of nurses and midwives in the data that we analysed had not recorded their ethnicity," she says. "Furthermore, no data on the setting in which they were working was available so we were unable to investigate whether some jobs or specialities are "riskier" than others.

"The NMC has committed to carrying out the research again, examining a larger dataset and will work with patient groups, employers, professional bodies and other regulators to discuss next steps.

"The NMC has also introduced a new process of revalidation for nurses and midwives renewing their professional registration. This new process will significantly improve the accuracy and completeness of the data for further research," she adds.

Professor West has presented her report findings to nursing and midwifery profession stakeholders and the Royal College of Midwives international conference. She will also address the BME working group of chief nursing officers for England. In October, she will discuss her findings with chief nursing officers for the UK.

Professor West's report, The Progress and Outcomes of Black and Minority Ethnic Nurses and Midwives through the Nursing and Midwifery Council's Fitness to Practise Process, is available at:

Find out more about studying with the University of Greenwich's Faculty of Education & Health:

Story by Public Relations

Picture: Professor Elizabeth West.