Editor’s Comment: Racist treatment
FILE PHOTO: The proportion of men who had been promoted to consultant in NHS was 53.6 per cent, and for women it was 36.5 per cent (Pic credit: Christoper Furlong/Getty Images)
THE pandemic has revealed the full extent of the contribution of healthcare workers in the UK.
However, an Eastern Eye report this week has uncovered horrific incidents of racial discrimination towards BAME medical staff. Several NHS staff admitted they had faced recent incidents of racist behaviour from patients or parents, but claimed senior management were failing to tackle the problem.
Health secretary Matt Hancock first acknowledged the issue in 2019, when a doctor said he considered leaving the NHS after a patient had asked for a white surgeon instead of him. At the time, the minister said he wanted to send a clear message that “this sort of abuse was unacceptable and would not be tolerated.”
However, our report shows the issue is prevalent within the system. Last year, an NHS staff survey found nearly 30 per cent of ethnic minority staff had experienced at least one incident of bullying, harassment or abuse. Doctors have warned the NHS could potentially lose out on well-qualified medical staff if racism in the system was not tackled.
Experts have said representation in senior healthcare leadership is vital to ensure that change happens at the top. According to Eastern Eye analysis last year, at least 13 NHS trusts in the Midlands and London had no ethnic minority representation.
Employers need to take urgent action to tackle discrimination, from mandatory training for staff to ensuring a zero-tolerance policy on racial bias. Healthcare staff should feel confident they can report such incidents, with the assurance they can keep their jobs and promotion prospects if they call out racist behaviour.
Next month marks the founding anniversary of the NHS. The role of healthcare workers should be highlighted to patients who use the service, including campaigns to focus on efforts made by BAME staff.
Countless ethnic minority healthcare workers risked their lives during the pandemic and still do, as hospitals continue to battle against the recent rise in cases across the country.
We all need to act to ensure racism in the health service is eradicated, ensuring that all staff feel respected and safe in their work environment.