Journal Article

'To tell you the truth I’m tired' : a qualitative exploration of the experiences of ethnically diverse NHS staff during the COVID-19 pandemic


Objectives. The aim of this paper was to explore the experiences and support needs of ethnically diverse healthcare staff and how they were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Design. A qualitative study using focus groups conducted remotely on Microsoft Teams. Setting. The study took place across 10 National Health Service Trusts in England; 5 were Acute Hospitals Trusts and 5 were Community and Mental Health Trusts. Participants. 55 participants across 16 focus groups took part in the study. Participants were all healthcare staff members from ethnically diverse backgrounds. Results. Seven themes were generated which highlighted issues of negative experiences of discrimination at work, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, including participants often finding line managers unsupportive, appearing to lack care and compassion, and not understanding ethnic diversity issues. Participants identified many reasons for finding it difficult to speak up when faced with such experiences, such as feeling unsafe to do so, or feeling too exhausted to keep speaking up. Other staff had more positive experiences and described supportive interventions, and despite workplace difficulties, many participants discussed remaining motivated to work in the National Health Service. Conclusions. Negative day-to-day experiences of ethnically diverse healthcare staff, and the difficulty of speaking up about these align with other, international literature on this topic. Progress in the area of staff equality is vital if healthcare organisations are to continue to provide high-quality patient care and retain skilled, compassionate staff who value their place of work. Recent literature suggests that many initiatives to reduce inequalities have not been successful, and there is a call for fundamental, cultural-level change. Future research is needed to understand how best to implement these organisational-level changes and to evaluate their effectiveness.

Attached files


Chastney, Juliet
Gill, Harmandeep Kaur
Nyatanga, Brian
Patel, Riya
Harrison, Guy
Henshall, Catherine

Oxford Brookes departments

Oxford School of Nursing and Midwifery


Year of publication: 2024
Date of RADAR deposit: 2024-01-09

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

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