Tackling race hate - a challenge the NHS cannot ignore

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  • Date: 21 April 2023
  • |
  • 3 minute read

MDDUS recently carried out a survey which revealed that a quarter of junior doctor members have been victims of race hate at work.

The survey found that more than three quarters (77 per cent) suffering racial abuse said it was from a patient. It also found that more than half (54 per cent) of junior doctors surveyed said they had witnessed a colleague being racially abused at work.

Nearly one-in-five (18 per cent) said the racism they had experienced at work had made them consider leaving the medical profession altogether.

MDDUS also used freedom of information requests to investigate the extent of hate crimes reported to the police having happened in a healthcare setting. Researchers from MDDUS asked all 45 police forces in the UK to release information about the number and type of hate crimes reported to them as occurring in hospitals, GP practices or other healthcare settings.

The FOI responses received showed that 875 hate crimes were recorded as occurring in a healthcare setting. The vast majority (94 per cent) were reported to the police after incidents in hospitals.

Doctors from a minority ethnic background and those who qualified overseas and are registered to practise here in the UK are part of the backbone of the NHS, making up almost a quarter of the workforce overall. Their focus is their patients, and they do not deserve to be distracted from this by hateful racist attacks.

Our findings highlight the debilitating impact on young doctors who experience racism at work. It is very distressing to hear about how badly it affects them both personally and professionally. They also spell out the impact racism has on staff retention and wellbeing at a time when the NHS is under pressure and needs to do everything it can to keep colleague morale high.

Junior doctors need the full support of their Trust to call out incidents of racism in the workplace, and the confidence of knowing they will be dealt with in an open and transparent way. MDDUS welcomes the recent publication of the Medical Workforce Race Equality Standard action plan, which has been jointly developed by royal medical colleges and regulators.

It sets out the “first five” practical actions to tackle inequalities in the medical workforce.

These include:

  1. To reduce disproportionality of entry into local disciplinary processes and referrals to the GMC for Black/minority ethnic and international medical graduate (IMG) doctors.
  2. To improve diversity in senior medical leadership appointments.
  3. To increase representation of doctors from ethnic minorities amongst the councils of royal colleges to proportionately reflect their memberships.
  4. To ensure there are meaningful local arrangements for initial and ongoing support for IMG doctors.
  5. To support specialty and associate specialist (SAS) doctors to make progress in leadership roles and by review of the contract.

The plan is certainly a proper acknowledgement of what needs to be done to remedy the abuse and inequality endured by minority ethnic and IMG clinicians – but progress on these actions needs to be swift and resolute as the NHS depends more than ever on its diverse workforce.

This page was correct at the time of publication. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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