RELATIONS between ethnic minority staff and hospital leaders are at breaking point amid accusations of racial discrimination.

The Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Network at the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust has passed a vote of no confidence in the trust board and started a petition calling on leaders to stand down.

At an extraordinary meeting held by thae network, consultant Onome Ogueh said BME staff felt under "siege” and called for practical solutions on how to improve matters.

The meeting on October 29 in St George’s Church, Brighton, saw staff speaking out to say they felt discriminated against or under-supported, or had heard discriminatory behaviour towards patients.

The trust "strongly refutes" such claims and says it works hard to promote racial equality.

The problems follow a Care Quality Commission report of April 2014 which said that inspectors were told some BME staff felt disadvantaged and at times were subject to racially motivated bullying and harassment.

The watchdog had been contacted by senior staff and the BME network and had also received anonymous information.

At the October meeting, one doctor spoke of hearing another doctor suggesting finding a Polish translator for a patient on a nearby building site. An Italian doctor spoke of feeling under-supported given English was not his first language.

A nurse said she had heard staff referring to other staff as "coloured" and the “integrity of cleaning staff being brought into question by the fact they may not be British.”

A petition calling for the removal of the executive management and trust board, first circulated at the meeting, says that under the trust “BME people are being subjected to unprecedented levels of racial discrimination, harassment and victimisation.”

Strongly refuting the claims, a spokesperson for the trust said it commits “substantial resources” to race equality and to supporting the BME Network.

She added the trust was confident policies relating to discrimination issues were “fairly applied”.

“There are many recent examples where we have taken serious disciplinary action in cases where race discrimination has been identified, and we will continue to do so," she continued.