• equal opportunities;
  • minority ethnic nurses;
  • ethnic managerialism;
  • managing diversity;
  • racial harassment;
  • institutional racism;
  • United Kingdom;
  • National Health Service

Equal opportunities policies and nursing employment within the British National Health Service

Aims. The National Health Service (NHS) is the largest employer in Western Europe and the largest employer of minority ethnic workers in Britain. This paper is concerned primarily with an examination of the experiences of nurses from minority ethnic groups.

Background. Recent research evidence suggests that many minority ethnic nurses face racial harassment from patients and colleagues and that there are continuing problems in recruitment and promotion. The Macpherson Report on the enquiry into the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence has stimulated a wide ranging discussion of institutional racism throughout the public sector in the UK, including the NHS.

Discussion. This paper discusses the continuing failure of equal opportunities policies to have a sustained impact on the experiences of minority ethnic nurses and discusses a number of reasons for the lack of progress of such policies. It examines the reasons why health care organizations might adopt equal opportunities policies and the pragmatic reasons why implementation has been both slow and patchy. It goes on to consider the concepts of managing diversity and ethnic managerialism as new tools to theorize equal opportunities and considers some of the continuing problems inherent in current strategies.