A Lincolnshire GP ‘nearly lost his sight’ in a racially motivated attack where an explosive device was thrown in his face.
The GP was out in the area he lives in a couple of weeks ago when the attacker threw a ‘firework or explosive device’ at his face and shouted racist comments.
The assault caused severe damage to the GP’s eye and left him with corneal abrasions and retinal edema.
‘Thankfully his eye has recovered because at one time it wasn’t certain whether it would do,’ said Dr Kieran Sharrock, medical director of Lincolnshire LMC and GP, speaking on behalf of the GP who was attacked.
‘He’s still quite shaken up by it.’
The incident was reported to the police but the attacker could not be identified because he ran away.
‘Unfortunately, the GP may make the decision to move away to somewhere he feels safer, so it’s having an impact on the healthcare of that locality. His wife is also a GP so we’re potentially losing two good doctors,’ said Dr Sharrock.
Dr Sharrock said that while physical attacks on GPs are uncommon, verbal racism is not.
He said: ‘As a white British GP, I hear comments regularly from patients about my non-white British colleagues. I’ve had people come to me and say “I’m so pleased you’re a white doctor,” and I say, “Why would that matter?”. We’ve all got a medical qualification, we’re all equally good GPs.’
He added: ‘We have to call these things out, but some people feel very uncomfortable doing that because it can impact on the patient relationship. But it’s something we need to do because any kind of racism is unacceptable.’
In April 2021, Humberside LMC produced a report on racism, which found that more than one in five (23%) GPs who responded had been the subject of racism in their professional life. Of this, participants from Asian, Mixed and Black backgrounds were most likely to have experienced this.
The distressing report showed that roughly two thirds of Asian or Asian-British and mixed-race participants reported being subject to racism at some point in their careers, with the same true of almost 60% of Black or Black-British staff.
In response to the report, Lincolnshire LMC is offering active bystander training to its staff, which gives them ‘the opportunity to learn how to call people out on bad behaviour’.
Dr Sharrock said: ‘This [attack] has highlighted how important it is. I tweeted it because I thought “What made that person think it was acceptable to throw something explosive into someone’s face?” And it’s because probably a hundred times before they’ve said something racist and not been called out for it.
‘If every time they’d done something, someone had said “No, that’s not appropriate,” it may never have escalated that far, but that person must have felt empowered to do that [make the attack] because they hadn’t been called out in the past.’
On rising abuse towards GPs Dr Sharrock said: ‘The NHS is under pressure as a whole and we are doing our best. We’re seeing more patients and doing 20% more consultations now than we did two years ago. But yes, the demand is greater than that and unfortunately we can’t meet all of the demand. But things like this [attack], which encourage doctors to move away, don’t help.’
It comes as GP practices were targeted with hoax bomb threats and blood-soaked tissues last month.
A shocking survey from the BMA found that more than half of GPs have faced verbal abuse from patients or those accompanying them in the last month and one in five has been threatened.
NHS England said last month it intends to measure race equality within the GP workforce, it said in a report highlighting inequalities elsewhere in the health service.