NHS merit pay scheme faces racism claim

A performance-related pay scheme for health staff including community nurses and midwives is “riddled with racism”, according to a survey.

The findings will cause concern among health service HR managers already struggling with a recruitment crisis.

The What’s the Point survey found black health visitors, community nurses and midwives fare far worse than their white and Asian counterparts under the discretionary points scheme introduced by the Government in 1998.

Based on 1,210 responses, the survey, carried out by MSF union and the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association, found they are nearly three times less likely to receive a pay rise.

The association represents health visitors, some community nurses, including district and school nurses, community midwives and nursery nurses.

MSF’s head of health Roger Kline said, “The whole discretionary points system is a very crude form of competency based pay, which has now been shown up as being riddled with racism.”

The report concludes, “The most clear example of discrimination is that the percentage of black practitioners eligible for and getting discretionary points is much lower (5 per cent) than white (14 per cent).”

John Adsett, personnel manager at Basildon and Thurrock General Hospitals Trust, said, “I’m surprised that there is such a disparity between the experience of black and Asian staff. In my experience discrimination is not that sophisticated.

“But it does concern me that staff feel that way about the discretionary points scheme. I think the findings certainly warrant further investigation in trusts employing community nurses and midwives.”

A Department of Health spokesman said, “This survey is very small and only 7 per cent of members replied, so it is difficult to make meaningful deductions.

“However, this Government has been quite clear that there is no room for discrimination in the NHS and has been proactive in taking steps to ensure all employees have the same opportunities to progress.”

The report adds: “There is nothing in the full-time status or grades of black staff to provide any explanation of the disproportionate impact. This appears to be a devastating finding.”


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