NHS England Workforce Report Shows 'Devastating Scale and Breadth' of Racial Discrimination

Dawn O'Shea

July 21, 2021

The BMA says the new report from NHS England on race equality in the medical workforce shows the “devastating scale and breadth at which ethnic minority doctors are being unfairly disadvantaged”.

The Medical Workforce Race Equality Standard (MWRES) report shows that across almost all indicators, Black and minority ethnic (BME) doctors have a worse experience at work compared to White doctors. This trend was seen during the whole career path from medical school to consultant level.

Compared to the overall proportion of doctors in NHS trusts and CCGs, BME doctors are underrepresented in consultant grade roles, overrepresented in other doctor grades, and underrepresented in academic positions. They also had a worse experience when it comes to examinations and regulation.

BME doctors reported worse experiences of harassment, bullying, abuse and discrimination from staff. Furthermore, even when BME doctors become consultants, they reported greater levels of discrimination and harassment and lower levels of feeling ‘involved’ at work.

The report states that, in the coming years, concerted effort is needed from organisations to make the NHS a model employer and the best place to work.

The report sets out key areas for action to begin this change, including the following:

  • Organisations and institutions must expressly communicating their intention to address inequality

  • Providing international medical graduates with development opportunities as a valued part of the workforce rather than just a clinical resource.

  • Websites, prospectuses, application packs and monitoring forms should use inclusive language.

  • Setting targets and timelines for reducing the ethnic disparity in representation at consultant, clinical director and academic levels

  • Obtaining detailed data on the performance of undergraduates and postgraduates in their assessments and examinations.

'Unacceptable Level of Discrimination'

NHS England said: “As the medical workforce becomes more diverse, more must be done to make sure that BME doctors have the same positive experience and opportunities as their white colleagues.

“Optimising the work environment for these colleagues is right, both morally and pragmatically,” it said.

Responding to the report, BMA Council Chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “This data highlights the enormous gulf between the experiences of ethnic minority doctors compared to their White counterparts and the unacceptable level of discrimination that continues to permeate the medical profession.

“There can be no excuse for not tackling this issue; the evidence is clear and resounding. The Government and organisations employing and training doctors have a responsibility to work towards building a more inclusive and supportive culture in the NHS. It is vital that they work to eliminate the systemic and outdated mechanisms that are unfairly disadvantaging ethnic minority doctors," Dr Nagpaul said.

Joan Saddler, director of equality and partnerships at the NHS Confederation and co-facilitator of the BME Leadership Network, commented: "Whilst the report shows that the NHS is recruiting more BME staff, we must celebrate such commitment, rewarding staff with leadership roles rather than the glass and concrete ceilings they consistently encounter as shown by the workforce race equality standard." 

She added: "Strong, authentic and diverse leadership is key to achieving both greater equity and accountability across the health and social care system."

This article was adapted from Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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