Ethnic minority nurses and midwives

Nurses and midwives form the largest collective professional group within the NHS. One in every five are from ethnic minority backgrounds, rising to much higher levels (up to 40%) in some regions and parts of the country, such as London.  

Improving equity of opportunity for nurses, midwives and care staff of all ethnicities is a top priority for the Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) for England. In 2020, the CNO established an action plan which makes clear her ambition and goals for development, opportunity and leadership for ethnic minority nurses and midwives. The plan spans a range of actions and initiatives with a common goal to ensure all nurses and midwives are valued and respected, and have equality of opportunity, irrespective of their ethnicity.

International nurses

Thanks to long-established relationships with many other nations, the NHS has always benefited from overseas recruitment and from nurses coming from other countries to live and work in England. Recruitment from outside of the UK continues to feature as an important part of the workforce supply strategy of NHS organisations, in line with the NHS People Plan. The NHS Long Term Plan set out the ambitions for the NHS over the next 10 years, identifying ethical international recruitment as a workforce priority.

The health and wellbeing and professional support of all of our workforce is a top priority and we work closely with nursing diaspora groups to ensure overseas nurses have the pastoral support they need. There are also leadership and development initiatives sponsored by our International Recruitment team in conjunction with key stakeholders. Find out more about international nursing recruitment.

Developing our ethnic minority leaders

During 2020, we worked with the Florence Nightingale Foundation (FNF) to deliver the FNF Ethnic Minority Groups NHS COVID-19 leadership programme to develop and sustain ethnic minority nursing leaders through the pandemic and beyond. The programme has sustained (and continues to sustain) leaders through these adverse times. In this publication and accompanying animations, some of these exceptional leaders share their personal and professional experiences. The leaders in this publication are testament to the exceptional talent within our amazing professions.

Caring for the nation: the contribution of ethnic minority nurses and midwives

The Mary Seacole Trust (MST) exists to educate and inform the public about the life, work and achievements of Mary Seacole, the 19th century Jamaican-born nurse who overcame racism and injustice to nurse soldiers during the Crimean War. During 2020, to commemorate the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, MST undertook interviews with a range of nurses and midwives past and present, who shared their personal experiences of working in health and care. This educational resource can help inform career decisions for entry into the professions. Interviews will continue to be added to the MST website.