Racial Bias a 'Major Issue' in Senior Medical Appointments

Peter Russell

October 21, 2020

Doctors from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds have been "consistently disadvantaged" when applying for senior roles, according to a report.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) said it had found "consistent evidence" that applicants from a Minority Ethnic background were less successful at consultant interview than White colleagues.

Prof Andrew Goddard, president of the RCP, said: "It is clear from the results of this survey that racial discrimination is still a major issue within the NHS.

"It's a travesty that any healthcare appointment would be based on anything other than ability."

Eight Years of Data

The RCP analysed data from 8 years' worth of annual surveys reporting on the outcomes for clinicians within a year of completing their certificate of completion of training (CCT).

Survey results showed that White doctors applied for fewer posts than BAME colleagues but were more likely to be shortlisted and offered a post.

White doctors had a 98% chance of being shortlisted after their first application, compared with 91% of BAME doctors.

The gap widened further when it came to the likelihood of being offered a post first time round. While 29% of White survey respondents were offered a post after being shortlisted for the first time, only 12% of ethnic minority respondents were as fortunate.

"We need to make sure that everyone is given equal opportunities to achieve their potential and that the best doctors are appointed to the right jobs," said Prof Goddard.

Findings from the report will be published shortly in an academic peer-reviewed publication, the RCP said.

'All Doctors Should Have the Same Opportunities'

Charlie Massey, chief executive of the General Medical Council (GMC) commented: "This important and welcome report raises many of the same systematic issues we have identified in our own work, such as the differences in educational outcomes depending on the ethnicity and backgrounds of doctors.

"All doctors should have the same opportunities to fulfil their potential, and it is unacceptable if there are biases that prevent this from happening."

Prof Mala Rao, medical adviser for the Workforce Race Equality Strategy Implementation Team praised the RCP for highlighting the issue.

"The RCP's firm stance against racism and its determination to understand how differential attainment affects its BAME members in their career progression are hugely welcome, as this encourages the whole of the medical workforce to come together to share learning and address race inequalities across the specialties," she said.

Rebecca Smith, managing director at NHS Employers, said: "All of us – managers, doctors, and the wider clinical team – need to confront and eliminate the discrimination faced by BAME colleagues in their workplaces and careers."

The RCP said it was working closely with NHS England and Improvement, NHS Employers, and the GMC to make sure that employers were aware of the findings and that more was done to ensure a level playing field.

A spokesperson for NHS England said: "It is unacceptable for anyone to be treated unfairly because of their race or any other protected characteristic.

"The NHS belongs to us all, and as part of the People Plan, NHS employers are committed to increasing Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic representation across their leadership teams as well as eliminating discrimination and inequality."

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