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Three in four BAME doctors experience racism in NHS

25th Feb 2022
Three in four BAME doctors experience racism in NHS

 Dr Chaand Nagpaul, Chair of the BMA said the NHS is “riddled with racism”. (Credit: BMA)

Nadine Osman

Three out of four (75 per cent) ethnic minority doctors have experienced some form of racism at work in the National Health Service in the past two years, reports the British Medical Association (BMA).

The BMA’s survey, published on February 2, found that 17.4 per cent of minority doctors also experience “regular” racism while working in the NHS.

The survey also reveals a low level of reporting for racist incidents, with 71 per cent of doctors who experienced racism choosing not to report it due to a lack of confidence that the incident would be addressed or a fear of being labelled “troublemakers.”

The survey also exposes the wider implications of racist experiences with Nearly 20 per cent of doctors say that they either considered leaving (13.8 per cent) or left their job (5.6 per cent) within the past two years due to race discrimination

Almost 60 per cent of doctors who experienced racism said that the incident had negatively impacted their wellbeing including causing depression, anxiety, and increased stress levels.

Fifty-nine point seven per cent of Asian, 57.3 per cent of Black, 45.1 per cent of Mixed and 36.3 per cent of White non-British respondents saw racism as a barrier to career progression compared to just 4.2 per cent of White British respondents.

The survey also elicited disturbing testimony from Black, Asian and minority ethnic NHS workers regarding their experiences with racism and discrimination. A mixed-race Junior Muslim doctor told the BMA Racism in Medicine Survey “I was called ‘headscarf b**ch’ by a patient.”

A Junior Doctor of Pakistani background said: “When interacting with senior colleagues, I would notice that they were nicer and more helpful towards other junior doctors who were born in the UK and were white. I would be treated and spoken to differently.” A Consultant of Indian background said: “I was not taken seriously. Emails were ignored. I was branded and suffered work-related stress and hypertension. I think of leaving this job every day.”

A Consultant of ‘Other’ ethnic background said, “A patient suggested I could be deported if they suffer post-op complications.”

A Junior Doctor of Asian background said: “Working in A&E was a nightmare. Continued racist behaviour from patients and their relatives. Due to this, I have decided not to pursue a career in emergency medicine.”

Reacting to the findings, the Chair of the BMA said the NHS is “riddled with racism”. “This is about a moral right for anyone who works for the NHS to be treated fairly,” said Dr Chaand Nagpaul.

He added, “These experiences of racism are clearly undermining the NHS’ ability to bring out the best in its workforce and there is no doubt that this will be having a knock-on effect on patient services.1 The GMC’s independent report into the wellbeing of doctors and medical students2 found abundant evidence that workplace stress in healthcare organisations affects quality of care for patients as well as doctors’ own health. It’s high time the conversation on race equality in the medical profession changes – reflects NHS staff’s lived experiences and seeks solutions.”

According to the BMA’s findings, 40 per cent of NHS doctors are from minority backgrounds, compared to 14 per cent of the general public.

One consultant, from a black African background, said that after reporting incidents “no action was taken… I feel uncomfortable and anxious about reprisals”.

Nearly 60 per cent of the 2,000 people surveyed said racism had impacted their mental health and 20 per cent say they have considered leaving their job since 2020. Twenty per cent of doctors say the racist abuse they suffered came from patients.

Roger Kline, Research Fellow at Middlesex University Business School, said, “There is now a wealth of research demonstrating the damage that discrimination and bullying does to staff health and wellbeing, impacting on staff sickness, turnover, productivity, effective team working and patient care and safety. It is simply unacceptable that such behaviour continues under the noses of NHS Trust Boards at a time when we have serious doctor shortages which such treatment will exacerbate.

In a statement to The Muslim News, Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and NHS Medical Director of Primary Care, said: “There is never an excuse for racism or any form of discrimination and it should not be tolerated by anyone, including our hard-working and dedicated NHS staff.

“While our latest equality report shows that we have made progress in some areas of the NHS, it is completely unacceptable for anyone to experience racism, discrimination or prejudice at work, and NHS organisations should continue to take a zero-tolerance approach to all and any form of discrimination.”

Last year, the Royal College of Psychiatrists reported that a third of black, Asian or minority ethnic workers in mental health trusts in England have experienced harassment, bullying or attacks by patients, relatives or members of the public, with one in three (32.7 per cent) of Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff in mental health settings experiencing abuse. For Black, Asian and minority ethnic workers across the NHS, the rate is more than one in four (28.9 per cent).

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