The NHS is facing a major exodus of ethnic minority doctors due to ongoing racism at both personal and institutional levels, a landmark study has revealed.
Almost a third of doctors surveyed have considered leaving the NHS or have already left within the last two years due to racial discrimination, with 42 per cent of black and 41 per cent of Asian doctors in particular having considered leaving or leaving the NHS to have.
The poll shared with LatestPageNews ahead of Wednesday’s release, paints a picture of institutional barriers to career advancement, dangerously low reporting rates of racist incidents and a growing psychological burden on ethnic minority doctors.
With more than 2,000 responses from doctors and medical students from across the UK, the BMA – a professional body representing all doctors in the UK – believes this survey is one of the largest of its kind to document experiences of racism in medicine Workplace.
dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA Council Chair, said: “The NHS was built on the principle of equal treatment for all patients, but this report shows that the NHS is disgracefully failing at that principle for its own ethnic minority doctors, who suffer an alarming level of unfair treatment and Report racial inequality in the workplace.
“It is deeply worrying that so many of those surveyed have not reported racism, either out of fear of being accused of being labeled a troublemaker or lacking confidence that it would be adequately investigated. This means doctors suffer in silence and the true extent of racism is never revealed or addressed.”
The report reveals the extent of the suffering professionals endure, from being overlooked for promotion and being forced to change their chosen specialty, to feelings of isolation and marginalization.
A Black African background adviser said: “Less confident to report such incidents again because no action was taken against the perpetrator. I feel uncomfortable and afraid of reprisals.”
With 60 percent of Asian and 57 percent of Black respondents seeing racism as a barrier to career advancement, patients are not benefiting from the skills and talents of an ethnically diverse workforce, the BMA chairman said.
“All of this leads to a tragic waste of potential as ethnic minority physicians are held back, pulled down or simply retired from the profession,” added Dr. Chaand added.
“Racism destroys the lives of many doctors, compromises patient care and threatens services. The time to talk about it is over. Our report makes a clear set of recommendations for changes that require action across the health system, from government to NHS organisations, leaders and other institutions.”
Experiences of racism are significantly underreported in the NHS, the survey finds. 71 percent of respondents who have personally experienced racism chose not to report the incident to anyone.
The most common reasons respondents did not report incidents they experienced were a lack of confidence that the incident would be addressed (56 percent) and concern about being perceived as a troublemaker (33 percent).
Speak with LatestPageNewsexperts suggest a range of possible solutions to endemic discrimination within the NHS.
dr Shehla Imtiaz-Umer, a general practitioner in Derby, who responded to the survey with her own experience of racism, calls for more policies to be put in place to support staff who experience racism from colleagues and patients alike.
“I think at times the NHS can be a toxic environment to work in, not just because individuals hold racist views, but because there is a lack of accountability across the system,” she said.
“We need visible leadership and role models; We have medical students who come into the profession and don’t see people to relate to, they have no insight on how to get to that level. We know there are career roadblocks all along the way.”
“Positive action must be taken against patients and colleagues who display racist views,” added Dr. Imtiaz-Umer, who is also an EDI advocate in her region.
“Right now I don’t think we have a policy that says specifically what you can do if a patient is openly racist towards you. It’s always about patient care, which is absolutely right, but we also have to look back at the experience that the staff has with it.
“There must be robust reporting mechanisms that allow people to speak up without fear of retaliation, which is a massive impediment right now.”
Vijaya Nath, an expert on race and healthcare leadership who worked on the report as part of the research consortium, said LatestPageNews: “This must be followed by commitment and deeds – and not just good words.
“I don’t think we need to convene more commissions or write more papers; what we need are well-considered decisions to ensure that we can rebalance this agenda.
“From our side, we’ve encouraged people to use the information in the report and apply that thinking from the ground up in the things they do; What are the experiences of young doctors taking on the majority of primary care responsibilities, how is it for women and people from minority ethnic groups?
“It’s important for leaders to make sure they take that into account when looking at policies, procedures and the way they interact with people.”