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  • Racism in the NHS

    by Ala
    23rd July, 2008 at 12:19 pm    

    Chief Medical officer for England, Sir Liam Donaldson declared last week that ethnic minority doctors in the NHS faced systematic racism, prejudice and harrassment, saying many doctors’ careers have been impeded due to this.

    In his annual report on the state of the nation’s health he called for a “clear committment” to tackle racism in the NHS, which will include an annual round datble debate and a mentorship scheme for BME doctors.

    Both he and BMA have called for urgent investigations into the reasons behind the fact that doctors born in Africa and Pakistan have a significantly higher mortality rate than their colleagues.

    Referring to landmark studies uncovering racism in medical schools and the NHS, the report says that people from ethnic minority backgrounds are less likely to get into medical school and become consultants, and more likely to live in areas of high deprivation.

    Sir Liam says, “Many institutional barriers have been removed, but there are still areas that cause concern.”

    BMA equal opportunities committee co-chair Professor Bhupinder Sandhu said, “[It is] brave of [Sir Liam] to accept the historic discrimination.” But she also criticised as insufficient the recommendation for the new Care Quality Commission to continue formal assessment of the quality of diversity and equity in healthcare organisations and make public those that fall short.

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    Filed in: Race politics

    16 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs

    1. Sunny — on 23rd July, 2008 at 2:18 pm  

      A roundtable debate eh? That always solves everything!

      Maybe Rohin, our resident doc, can shed more light on this…

    2. DR1001 — on 23rd July, 2008 at 5:34 pm  

      It took them this long to figure this out and then end up with a debate??! lol

      Certainly from close friends in the field it seems it’s almost impossible if you’re a woman and or minority to move up the echelons in medicine in the UK whereas the individual im thinking of is doing very very well in the US.

    3. persephone — on 23rd July, 2008 at 8:24 pm  

      It is not just the medical personnel. An asian accountant that I know who works in a NHS hospital relates that there is racism within the system to the point of bullying and causing stress. Sometimes the individuals line manager is involved … and who do you have to go thru’ to report this? Your line manager.

    4. billericaydicky — on 23rd July, 2008 at 8:37 pm  

      What about if this is just another MacPherson report, there has to be a report and it always finds on behalf of the people who complained and then there is another commission of enquiry which recommends yet another report.

      Do what the Irish did, stop whinging and get on with it.

    5. Leon — on 23rd July, 2008 at 8:52 pm  

      Do what the Irish did, stop whinging and get on with it.

      Er so those that suffer racism should stop complaining and go blow people up?

    6. Rohin — on 23rd July, 2008 at 10:19 pm  

      “Certainly from close friends in the field it seems it’s almost impossible if you’re a woman and or minority to move up the echelons in medicine in the UK”

      What a complete load of tosh. The UK has more ‘ethnic minority’ doctors in positions of seniority than any other Western country. I have never experienced any racism, but of course it does exist the way it does in all walks of life. Some of the most pre-eminent doctors in the UK are immigrants. The three best-selling medical textbooks have Indian editors and authors, including a woman. Several directors of the largest transplant centres in the UK are from Asia. Many of the most pioneering research and clinical doctors in the UK are not white. Women are under-represented in consultant posts, but vastly over-represented in new GP appointments. One can’t use that ratio to say women are discriminated against - they’re choosing to become GPs.

      As I recall DR1001, you are not a doctor, so I understand why you’re so wrong.

      Medicine has had a paradigm shift from the old boys white network it undoubtedly was, to a system which screws everyone over, irrespective of race (i.e. an electronic job system which seems to randomly allocate people jobs).

      The reality on the ground in the NHS is there are many problems and racism is far far down the list. This does not mean it should be ignored, there are some very worrying statistics like more complaints, harsher punishments etc for non-white doctors. However Liam Donaldson and the BMA are about as far removed from doctors’ views as one can get. They do not represent British doctors.

      I am only speaking for doctors in the NHS, I can’t comment about other professionals who might have things worse.

    7. El Cid — on 23rd July, 2008 at 10:28 pm  

      Somehow I’m not surprised by your response Rohin.
      Real life experience counts for so much more than make-a-name-for-myself-wooly-liberal-managerspeak or just-left-university-and-am-a-fan-of-noam-chomsky-don’t-you-know-abstract-reasoning.
      So I’ll take your word for it.
      I know three very senior doctors - one nigerian, one jewish, one trad english. Ermm.. that’s it.

    8. Dalbir — on 24th July, 2008 at 4:36 am  

      Do what the Irish did, stop whinging and get on with it.

      My local is an Irish watering hole. Believe you me - they are still whinging about it!

      I like your attitude - shut up and put up with our racism………real cool.

    9. Sunny — on 24th July, 2008 at 5:01 am  

      The boy doesn’t mince words! Rohin, whaddya make of this report then?

      And what about the attitude shown to immigrant doctors, who nearly were chucked out?

    10. MaidMarian — on 24th July, 2008 at 9:32 am  

      Sunny (9) - You may want to be a bit more careful there.

      The abolition of permit free training for doctors was implemented in a very, very, very cack handed way. This was (to my mind) largely due to it being the Home Office who little about postgraduate medical education structures that came up with the scheme and its implementation. It was almost certainly rushed and lead to significant numbers falling through cracks, or rather gaping holes.

      There is an oversupply of doctors, many of whom can not find specialty training posts and a work permit arrangement was, in part, a response to this new reality. When PFT was introduced in the mid 1980s there was a need to increase the supply of doctors.

      My view is that work permit/immigration arrangements are not the best way to regulate supply of doctors however other professions do not have a permit free arrangement and I see no reason why medicine should intrinsically be different.

      Of course, every doctor that comes here and is left languishing is at a cost to their native country, not to mention the often heavy personal cost.

      The introduction of work permits showed significant failures in NHS workfprce planning and data collection and a Home Office with a wildly simplistic world view but it is a stretch to suggest that it was all a racist conspiracy.

    11. MaidMarian — on 24th July, 2008 at 9:50 am  

      Apologies - I should have added into my last comment a further point.

      Many countries appear to give young doctors a view that specialty training opportunities in the UK are plentiful and encourage doctors to chance their arm in the UK. This is rash and is a view 30 years out of date.

      The NHS has a poor record when it comes to being fully open with immigrant doctors, but a reasonable part of the blame lies overseas too.

    12. Rumbold — on 24th July, 2008 at 9:51 am  


      Do any doctors support the BMA?

    13. Zak — on 24th July, 2008 at 10:45 pm  

      I have seen racism in the NHS, I’d say it is quite subtle but then again class racism usually is..

      ironically you know things are changing when you see second generation Britiah trained Asian Doctors berating european patients for not learning the language!

    14. DR1001 — on 25th July, 2008 at 4:21 pm  

      “What a complete load of tosh”

      I notice anytime i comment you are very quick to pounce on me .
      What the hell is your problem? I wasn’t stating stats just my experiences.
      I may not be a Doctor but i do work in the medical field.

      AS i mentioned my friend who was a surgeon in the UK within the NHS has relayed her experiences to me and is now moved from the UK to the US precisely due to the fact she could not move up the ‘chain’ to be a consultant. She DID face rascism and maybe things have changed for women since she practised so that’s great.

      I appreciate you’re in the field and have more insight but calm down please.

    15. MaidMarian — on 25th July, 2008 at 10:17 pm  

      DR1001 (14) - That does not make very much sense, when did your friend work in the NHS?

      If your friend was in the SpR/StR (surgery may also involve CST) grade then, subject to completion of examinations and (I think) the Royal Colleges of Surgeons Intercollegiate examinations then she would have progressed to the GMC Specialist Register and eligibility for consultant appointment.

      If she was in the NCCG (now Specialty Doctor) grade then she has, since 2005 had the opportunity to work towards an application to the PMETB under Article 14 of the General and Specialist Medical Practice Order for entry to the Specialist Register. It is no longer solely about access to the training posts.

      Possibly (depending on when she was in the NHS) she may have been ‘stuck’ in the old SHO grade. Certainly surgical posts were and still are very competitive but where does the racism come in? Presumably she complained if she felt she was being held back by racism?

      The US Board of Surgery residency examination (and any US Board fellowships post-credentialling) could be used to an Article 14 application, though it is not a guarantee of success in itself. I would be interested to know exactly how this person was advised and by whom.

      Of course the US Attendings tend to earn substantially more in the US than in the UK.

    16. DR1001 — on 26th July, 2008 at 3:01 am  

      Tt was pre 2005 and so it seems things may have been different to now.
      The rascism was subtle .

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