British Docs Far More Likely to Be Offered Jobs if They Are White

By Linda Carroll

October 25, 2021

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - White doctors in London are six times more likely to be offered jobs than their Black counterparts, a new report suggests.

Data described in an article published in The BMJ also suggest that white physicians are four times more likely than their Asian counterparts to be offered positions.

The article highlights findings from a report by Sheila Cunliffe, a senior human-resources professional who works in workforce transformation across the British National Health Service and wider public sector, who collected data on NHS hiring practices via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and then posted her findings online.

Cunliffe requested that all 18 NHS acute trusts in London provide a breakdown by ethnicity for 2020-2021 of the numbers of applicants for medical jobs, shortlisted candidates and candidates offered positions, the article's author, Dr. Samara Linton writes. Just 12 of 18 shared full unredacted data, she adds.

Data from the NHS trusts "showed stark differences in the proportions of applicants from different ethnic backgrounds being offered medical jobs," writes Dr. Linton. "At Barts Health NHS Trust, white applicants were 15 times more likely than Black applicants to be offered a job. At St George's University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, white applicants were 13 times more likely than Black applicants, and 11 times more likely than Asian applicants, to be offered a job. And at Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, white applicants were 13 times more likely than Black applicants to be offered a job."

Dr. Linton did not respond to requests for comment.

The disparities are apparently not due to a lack of applicants, she writes.

Cunliffe's data show that during 2020-2021, Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust "offered positions to 90 applicants, including 50 of the 317 white applicants for medical positions during that period," Dr. Linton writes. "In contrast, although 418 black candidates applied for medical positions and 65 were shortlisted, no black doctor was offered a position at the trust during that period."

Dr. Linton quotes a response from a spokesperson from Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust: "Ensuring our staff are reflective of the communities we serve is a priority, and we acknowledge that we have much more to do to ensure equity of opportunity. We continue to work to improve our recruitment and selection processes and are currently training 26 diversity champions from across all professional groups and services to ensure that all our applicants are interviewed by panels that have enhanced skills in equality and diversity."

This is an "interesting article," said Dr. Peter Muennig, a professor of health policy and management at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health in New York City. "This certainly needs more rigor and a deeper dive but it's intriguing and pretty consistent with what we are seeing internationally, including in the U.S., but maybe a little more extreme."

"In the U.S. we have affirmative action, which makes things more complicated in terms of sorting out racist intent because there is an active search for minority applicants," Dr. Muennig, who was not involved in the work, told Reuters Health by phone. "In this case the numbers are way off the chart: 418 Black candidates apply, 65 are short listed and none are offered positions. That's clear-cut racism."

SOURCE: The BMJ, October 13, 2021.