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Patient safety ‘compromised by racism’, says ex-BMA chair

Patient safety ‘compromised by racism’, says ex-BMA chair

Patient safety is being ‘compromised by race discrimination’ as doctors are more likely to make errors when stressed or when experiencing ‘incivility’, according to the former chair of the BMA Dr Chaand Nagpaul.

Speaking on a panel at the NHS ConfedExpo in Manchester today, Dr Nagpaul discussed both the human and economic cost of racism within the NHS workforce.

He said the population ‘is being denied the full potential talent of its workforce’ because Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) doctors are ‘being dumbed-down’ and ‘prevented from actually being their best’.

Dr Nagpaul, who is also a GP partner in North London and a board member at the NHS Race and Health Observatory, quoted findings from the project Civility Saves Lives showing that incivility decreases cognitive function by 61%.

He also pointed to GMC research from 2019 which showed that the risk of medical error is increased by 45% to 63% if a doctor is stressed and burnt out.

The ex-chair of the GP Committee said there is a ‘huge economic cost’ of not addressing racism in the medical and wider NHS workforce.

He said: ‘Correcting race discrimination and racism is of course addressing an inherent moral wrong and something that’s so much the antithesis of what the NHS stands for.

‘But it’s also a no-brainer that it needs to be eradicated, for all the reasons that if you want a sustainable NHS, if you want to maximise its workforce potential, if you want patients to be looked after at their best, if you want a content workforce, you have to tackle it. And I don’t think we hear enough of that from our policymakers.’

The BMA’s Racism in Medicine report last year found that 52% of Black doctors and 44% of Asian doctors reported feeling socially excluded at work, compared to just 5% of white British doctors.

It also found, through the survey of over 2000 doctors, that more than 90% of Black and Asian doctors and medical students think racism in the medical profession is an issue.

Last year, a report by Health Education England (HEE) also found that GPs in London were experiencing ‘appalling’ levels of racism, with over one in three saying they had experienced racial discrimination from patients in the previous 12 months, and one in five had experienced racism from other staff.

And earlier this year, a survey by the defence organisation MDDUS showed that over one in five (22%) young GPs had experienced racism at work.