LAS chairman Heather Lawrence said the organisation — of which almost one in five staff are from black, Asian and ethnic minority communities — had a “long way to go” to ensure they did not suffer discrimination at work.
Her intervention came after a workforce survey found that white LAS staff were increasingly likely to be appointed to a new post from a shortlist —while black workers were twice as likely to face disciplinary action.
Ms Lawrence told the LAS board: “Given all the work we have done on Black Lives Matter, the results are disappointing. We have to have a very strong focus on that, because we are not delivering.
“I had an email sent to me suggesting we had made no progress at all. While I recognise the person might have a particular perspective, I think we have got a long way to go.”
LAS has struggled to promote black and ethnic minority staff to higher levels. There have been longstanding allegations of bullying within the organisation, which is often blamed on the lack of central oversight as, pre-pandemic, it operated out of 70 ambulance stations.
The latest survey found 31.7 per cent of black and Asian staff reported experiencing harassment, bullying or abuse from colleagues, an increase of 1.7 points on last year.
The percentage of ethnic minority staff being abused by patients or members of the public increased from 43 per cent last year to 48.6 per cent this year. Both figures are said to be “remarkably higher” than NHS hospital trusts in London, and other ambulance trusts across the country.
Ms Lawrence said: “When you listen to the coverage of a year on from George Floyd, that is the message to the country as a whole. I want to see us taking that forward in an even more proactive way.”
LAS chiefs hope the use of violence reduction officers and the roll-out of body-worn cameras to crews will reduce abuse from patients. They are also looking to develop policies, in the wake of the abduction and killing of Sarah Everard, to improve the safety of female employees.
Women have raised concerns about “banter”, personal safety when working alone on the frontline and the consequences of speaking up.
Boris Johnson has asked for more regular reports on the working conditions of staff across the NHS, which experts have linked with sickness rates and patient satisfaction.
LAS chief executive Garrett Emmerson admitted there was “still more to be done” on equality, diversity and inclusion.
“We have more recently initiated similar conversations in respect of women’s experience of the workplace, which we will build on.”
* This article was amended to correct the number of London ambulance stations in use pre-pandemic from 100 to 70.