Health minister Vaughan Gething claims Welsh NHS has problem with 'structural racism'

The health minister has told ITV News that he believes the NHS has a problem with structural racism in Wales.

Vaughan Gething said the number of people from diverse backgrounds working for NHS Wales is not reflected in its senior leadership roles.

It comes as health workers from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds shared their experiences of racism in the Welsh NHS with ITV News.

Their concerns have sparked allegations around structural racism and claims that it could have contributed to the number of BAME health workers who died during the pandemic.

The health minister said it is not unexpected that structural racism exists within the NHS.

Mr Gething said: "If you look at where our staff are, our overall staff numbers, in terms of where people have come from, ethnicity, nationality, that isn't reflected when you get to senior leadership tiers, and that's a challenge for us.

"We can still be really proud of what our NHS does, but we also need to recognise the problems that do still exist.

But Mr Gething said it is not unexpected that structural racism exists within the NHS.

"Given that structural racism still exists in the country at large, it would be odd if the NHS were entirely free from it.

"But we need to take on board our responsibility, my responsibility, to do something about it."

In response to concerns that staff are expected to "put up and shut up", Mr Gething said: "I wouldn't say that anyone should just put up and shut up with discriminatory behaviour in the workplace.

"I don't believe that people should put up and shut up with racism, so I'd never trivialise that experience, and I don't want our NHS to do that either."

Rukhsar Abbas lost her father and uncle who died with Covid within hours of each other. Credit: ITV Wales/Rukhsar Abbas

People from BAME backgrounds who are grieving the loss of loved ones have also said they feel like they are searching for bereavement support that "doesn't exist".

Mr Gething said: "We've looked at this specifically in our bereavement support, and this is about understanding how people feel and then doing something about it, rather than trying to say that those problems don't exist."

There are claims that the coronavirus pandemic has exposed inequalities between different racial groups.

Mr Gething said change is needed not just in the response to the crisis, but also in the recovery from it.

Over the next five years, he said: "Our challenge will be, are things better, and have we done what we could and should do to give more people the best chance of living their best life?"