How should we combat racism in the NHS?

06/17/04

Editorial: The prejudices of good people BMJ Volume 328, pp 1448-9

Why are ethnic minority doctors over-represented in lower grades of the profession? Why are more complaints made against ethnic minority doctors, and why are there more suspensions? Are our present curriculums teaching all students about cultural sensitivity and awareness?

Ethnic minority doctors form nearly one third of the NHS workforce, yet research has shown that they are disadvantaged throughout their careers. Why do these problems continue to exist in the NHS, asks an editorial in this week's BMJ?

The most important point about understanding what institutional racism means in an organisation such as the NHS is how processes, structures, and values operate to disadvantage black and ethnic minority patients and staff, writes Aneez Esmail of Manchester University.

For the medical profession, the problem is one of recognition that, just because individuals are not racist, this does not mean that institutional racism cannot exist. In that respect, the medical profession has a long way to go.

So what should be done? Leadership is critical, argues the author, and the reality is that not a single leader of the medical profession has taken on the task of lancing this festering abscess.

Every head of a medicopolitical organisation, every president of a royal college, and every dean of a medical school must ask themselves if ethnic minority staff and patients are receiving the service they are entitled to.

But with virtually no ethnic minorities in these influential positions, and with only 1% of trusts' chief executives from black and ethnic minorities, the challenges are huge. Exhortations and good intentions abound but action is virtually non-existent, he concludes.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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