The UK’s biggest nursing union has called for greater equality for black and ethnic minority nurses in the health service as the nation celebrates the 70 years since the Empire Windrush docked in Britain.
The Empire Windrush arrived in Tilbury just two weeks before the National Health Service was founded and it is estimated around 100,000 nurses from the Caribbean and Africa came here to train between 1948 and 1971.
According to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), 25% of nurses in the NHS are from minority backgrounds, but have much less chance of being shortlisted for promotion than their white counterparts.
They also have more difficulty accessing development training and are more likely to be formally disciplined than white nurses, the RCN said.
To tackle discrimination, the RCN launched its cultural ambassador programme to work with employers to combat racism in the workplace.
Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: “So many of the Windrush generation helped to build the health service that we all rely on.
“They have been our valued colleagues for over 70 years and their contribution to keeping the service running is undeniable.
“Times have moved on since the 1940s yet BME staff still do not have equal access to career opportunities and fair treatment in the workplace.
“This makes the work of the RCN’s cultural ambassador programme even more important for promoting equality and inclusion for all NHS staff.
“We are absolutely clear that there is no room for racism or any form of hate in nursing.
“The Windrush generation and their descendants are a credit to our society and the nursing profession.”
Shirley Ranmarine spent her entire career with the NHS having arrived in the UK from Trinidad in 1967.
She trained in Bath before working as a practice nurse in Bath.
She said: “When I arrived in Southampton, I met a man from the British Council, who took me to the train station and put me on a train to Bath.
“I remember that it was cold and meeting students at the Bath Spa Nurses Home who came from all over the world. Many of us didn’t know anybody else in the UK.
“I wanted to come to the UK by boat because it only cost 350 dollars whilst the plane was nearly 600 dollars.
“The journey from Trinidad took over 20 days and I was able to visit quite a few countries, Portugal, Spain, Jamaica and Venezuela, it was a little holiday.
She added: “Working for the NHS has been quite the experience and I’m still working 10 hours a week.”