Ethnic Minority Doctors 'Less Likely to Experience Pandemic Teamwork'

Peter Russell

November 27, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic brought about improvements in team-working and sharing knowledge in the face of the pandemic, according to a survey by the General Medical Council (GMC).

The state of medical education and practice in the UK report found that 89% of doctors overall experienced at least one positive change during the pandemic.

However, Black and Ethnic Minority (BME) doctors were less likely than their White counterparts to report improvements in workplace teamwork.

Charlie Massey, the GMC's chief executive, said: "We know BME doctors too often lack the supportive and compassionate leadership that is required to thrive.

"Doctors of all grades, and from all backgrounds, need and deserve the same levels of support if they are to provide the best possible care for patients, in what will continue to be difficult months ahead."

Workplace Changes

Among other findings:

  • The pandemic had a widespread effect on doctors' working lives, with 81% experiencing significant changes to their work, and 42% being redeployed

  • Positive changes to team-working between doctors were reported by 68% of White doctors, but only 55% of BME doctors

  • Positive change in the sharing of knowledge and experience across the medical profession was reported by 61% of White doctors compared to 46% of BME doctors

  • Positive change in the speed at which workplace changes were made was reported by 57% of White doctors, compared to 38% of BME doctors

Results were based on a representative sample of more than 3600 doctors who were asked to detail their experience of working during the first peak of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as in 2020 generally.

The survey also found considerable disruption to medical training and education, with 74% of trainees facing disruption. However, most said that on-the-job learning remained of a high quality.

A Year 'Like No Other'

Mr Massey added: "This has been a year like no other, but the challenging situation will last for some time yet and there are issues that healthcare leaders must address.

"Compassionate and supportive leadership is key, for patients as well as doctors, and this is the case now more than ever. We must all build on the flexible approach that has been a necessity this year."

'Deeply Concerning'

Health and medical groups have issued statements reacting to the report.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) said the divide between BME and White health professionals should not be ignored.

Professor Andrew Goddard, president of the RCP, said: "The negative impact of the pandemic on doctors' mental health and wellbeing cannot be underestimated.

"With workloads only increasing as we enter winter in the midst of the second wave, we need to turn our attention to long term solutions.

"If we're ever to ease the pressure on our health workers, we must expand the workforce, starting with significantly increasing the number of medical school places."

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said the findings were "deeply concerning", and: "BMA surveys have highlighted time and time again that doctors from BME backgrounds can be less confident in raising concerns, more fearful of being blamed if something goes wrong, and are more likely to experience bullying or harassment in the workplace."

Dr Nagpaul added: "It’s therefore imperative, as this report highlights, that inclusive cultures are created and nurtured in every corner of the NHS, particularly as doctors from BME backgrounds are a significant part of the workforce."

NHS Providers' Director of Policy and Strategy, Miriam Deakin, said: "This report clearly shows that within the NHS, there is still much work to do to improve equality and diversity in the workplace, and we must continue to invest in support for this across the health and care system."

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