The Government needs to ‘look again’ at the evidence on structural racism, the BMA and a range of medical organisations representing doctors from ethnic minorities have urged.
It follows the Government-commissioned Sewell report published in March which concluded the UK ‘no longer’ had a system ‘deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities’.
At a meeting organised by the BMA to discuss the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (CRED race) report, attendees were united in their view that the report failed to acknowledge the role of structural racism.
It seemed that evidence identified and shared with the report’s authors by the BMA and many other organisations had been ignored, the meeting heard.
Those taking part, which included the British Medical Association National BAME Forum, the British International Doctors Association, the British Islamic Medical Association and Jewish Medical Association among others, jointly called for the Government to reconsider.
There is a need to ‘identify, understand and address’ how systemic racial discrimination and structural racism has been a key factor in the disparities that exist in the experiences of some doctors and healthcare professionals as well as an important cause of healthcare inequalities, the medical organisations said.
The groups called on the Government to ‘rigorously examine’ the evidence previously submitted to the report authors and set out a plan for tackling racism and race inequalities with clear lines of accountability, ahead of its response due in summer.
In May, a ‘distressing’ LMC report found that more than half of black, Asian and minority ethnic primary care staff have experienced racism at work coming from either patients or fellow colleagues.
BMA chair, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said: ‘The CRED race report’s assertion that the NHS is an equality success story with over-representation of ethnic minorities in high positions is inaccurate, misleading and flies in the face of the lived experience of thousands of ethnic minority doctors.
‘The authors simply ignored the indisputable evidence that ethnic minority doctors face differential attainment affecting career progression, greater employer referrals for disciplinary processes, and reduced chances of being shortlisted or offered top hospital consultant positions.’
He added that ethnic minority doctors experience higher levels of bullying and harassment, and during the pandemic felt less able to speak out regarding safety concerns for fear of recrimination. And he criticised the report for ‘bafflingly’ failing to acknowledge or attempt to explain that 85% of doctors who have died from Covid-19 were from ethnic minority backgrounds
The BMA and the other organisations who attended, which also included the African Caribbean Medical Mentors and the Muslim Doctors Association called on the Equality Minister to use the Government’s response as a ‘second chance to recognise structural racism in medicine and healthcare more widely’.
‘When developing its own response, the Government would do well to consider the overwhelming response from the public and organisations – ranging from disbelief to outrage at some of the statements in the report,’ Dr Nagpaul said.
‘To fail once to miss an opportunity to address inequalities and racism is disappointing and upsetting, but to miss two chances to reflect the experience of hundreds of thousands of people from ethnic minority communities would be simply unacceptable.’
A recent Pulse cover feature recently looked in depth at how systemic racism affects general practice.