Fewer than half of NHS trusts have written procedures for dealing with racial harassment, according to new research.
A survey by the Commission for Racial Equality reveals that only 5 per cent of NHS trusts have fully implemented racial equality action programmes and only 11 per cent have set themselves employment percentage targets.
Racial Equality and NHS Trusts included responses from 128 trusts in the London, South West, South East and Eastern regions of the NHS in England.
The survey says, "Policies tend to be written without reference to trade unions or staff and many employees are unaware of the trust's policy. In many there was a disturbing gap between equal opportunities policy and practice."
CRE commissioner Shushila Patel said the survey reveals some prime examples of good practice and good intentions, but that it also shows that more progress is needed.
About 45 per cent of trusts surveyed have an action plan that is scheduled for implementation or is in the process of being implemented.
Patel said, "Parliament has just put into law the most important piece of race equality legislation for 25 years, providing for a duty on the part of public bodies to work for race equality.
"This survey shows why the legislation is so important. While the overwhelming majority of trusts surveyed have formal written policies, half of all the trusts have no plans to implement those policies in any meaningful way."
Marie Clary, HR manager for Poole Hospital NHS Trust, thinks the survey's findings show trusts should guard against complacency about racial equality.
She said, "I think the survey gives practical indications of how trusts can positively respond and implement racial equality in the health service.
"There is always more to be done but I think we have got the basics right. It is not an area where you ever feel you've done enough. As soon as you reach a certain point you want to set new targets and objectives."
By Bben Willmott