Concern as BAME doctors report being ‘shunned’ by white patients

The British Medical Association (BMA) has highlighted the challenges faced by overseas medics, who it believes “often receive a poor induction about both the system and culture in the NHS and this sets them at a severe disadvantage” (Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images).

 

By Nadeem Badshah

NHS bosses have been urged to do more in order to tackle racism against staff, after new figures showed a 145 per cent increase in incidents.

The number of cases reported rose from 589 in 2013 to 1,448 last year. And from the health service trusts that responded, 70 per cent recorded a rise in abuse.

University of Derby and Burton Trust saw the biggest rise, from 194 incidents to 439 in 2018, while Guys and St Thomas’ in London went from none to 109.

India-born surgeon Radhakrishna Shanbhag, who works in Blackpool, Lancashire, revealed that a patient told him they want to be treated by a white doctor, while other patients have “shunned” him, which made him feel “worthless”.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has highlighted the challenges faced by overseas medics, who it believes “often receive a poor induction about both the system and culture in the NHS and this sets them at a severe disadvantage”.

The BMA chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said it was unacceptable that any doctor should suffer the discrimination and shame of a patient refusing to be treated by them on the basis of their race.

He told Eastern Eye: “We have an NHS built around fairness, and action must be taken to ensure that all doctors in our health service are treated equally and respectfully. The NHS could not survive without the incredible contribution of BAME doctors and the NHS owes them both gratitude as well as a duty of care.

“Yet, they face barriers to progress, and are also less likely to be shortlisted for and be awarded senior posts.

“A particularly vulnerable group are BAME international medical graduates who come to the UK, often isolated, having left families at home.”


Dr Chaand Nagpaul

Dr Nagpaul added: “The BMA has developed a support package for these doctors and we’re also working with the General Medical Council on this.

“The NHS must demonstrate a welcoming, fair and supportive environment for overseas doctors if we are not to add to the current medical workforce pressures in our health service.”

Research by the BMA showed that BAME doctors are far less confident in raising safety and care concerns than their white colleagues. They feel it is more likely that they will be blamed or will suffer a backlash from colleagues. They also reported a higher level of bullying and harassment.

Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, told Eastern Eye: “No one should be attacked or harassed because of their race. As time goes on, these figures should be decreasing not increasing.

“We urgently need the government to introduce a mandatory duty for employers … to increase protections for staff. We’re currently developing guidance to support employers to do this.”

Separate research has shown that just seven per cent of NHS senior managers are from BAME backgrounds. And white hospital consultants continue to be paid nearly £5,000 a year more than those from an ethnic minority heritage.

Jahangir Alom, a NHS doctor in east London, said he has suffered discrimination from a patient.

He said: “I still remember turning up for the ward round one day, and one of our patients demanded that they only saw a white doctor. Of the six doctors working that day none were white, so the consultant just said it’s us or no one.”

Dr Sufian Patel, a fellow junior doctor, said: “I have come across [situations] where people mentioned subtle signs of racism. I have seen racism to other healthcare staff. It is quite common in elderly patients, sometimes when they come in with an infection and have an altered mental state and are confused. Sometimes they say things which they should not. They don’t have a filter.”

Kevin McGee, chief executive of the Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation trust where Dr Shanbhag works, said it does not condone prejudice in any form.

McGee added: “Our board is working with our black and minority ethnic staff to prevent discrimination. To this end, we have approached the national BAME lead to work with the Trust and our staff to support our engagement strategy and challenge any issues that may stand in the way.”

Health secretary Matt Hancock wrote to every NHS Trust in November to demand a zero-tolerance approach to racism.

He wrote on Twitter: “There is absolutely no place for this in our NHS. No one should have to suffer racism doing their job.

“The only answer to the question, ‘can I have a white doctor’, is ‘no’”.