Widespread racism risks exodus of doctors warns BMA

  • Date: 29 June 2022

A BMA survey found that 84 per cent doctors who qualified overseas report having experienced racism in the last two years.

The survey of 2,030 BMA members also found that 49 per cent of respondents described being subject to discriminatory comments from more senior doctors and 41 per cent hearing derogatory comments from patients regarding their ethnicity, country of origin, heritage, name and accent.

Respondents who qualified overseas were twice as likely to think that racism was a barrier to their career progression than those who had qualified in the UK (60 per cent compared to 27 per cent).

The BMA concludes that the profession is in danger of a “major exodus of doctors of ethnic minority backgrounds, due to persistent and intolerable levels of racism faced at a personal and institutional level”, with 42 per cent of Black and 41 per cent of Asian doctors having considered leaving or having left.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA chair of council, said: "The NHS was built on the principle of equality of care for patients whoever they are, but this report shows that the NHS is shamefully failing in this principle for its own doctors, with those from ethnic minorities reporting alarming levels of unfair treatment and racial inequality at work.

"It is deeply concerning that so many of those surveyed did not report racism, either out of fear of recrimination, being labelled a troublemaker or a lack of confidence it would be properly investigated. This means that doctors are suffering in silence, and the true extent of racism is neither exposed nor addressed.

"Racism is wrecking the lives of many doctors, affecting patient care and threatening services. The time for talk on this is over. Our report makes a range of clear recommendation for change which demand action across the health system, from Government to NHS organisations, leaders and other institutions."

The BMA survey report makes a number of recommendations including being explicit about the need for change, with centralised guidance on HR processes to be available across all organisations in the medical profession “so that everyone is on the same page”. It also calls for equality, diversity and inclusion training to be mandatory in medical school curricula.

Dr John Holden, Chief Medical Officer at MDDUS, commented: "The findings of this investigation are extremely concerning. Sadly, they reflect what MDDUS members have told us about their experiences of the last two years of the pandemic.

"Earlier this year we surveyed almost 2,000 of our members and found that four out of five GPs of an Asian background who responded had faced an increase in verbal abuse or aggression from their patients.

"It’s deeply worrying that many of these GPs are considering early retirement or leaving the profession altogether.

"No one should have to go to work fearing racism. Doctors who worked at the frontline of the pandemic, putting their health and their families’ health at risk in doing so, deserve workplaces with a zero tolerance of racism."

Link: Racism in medicine

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