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David Olusoga: Racism ‘still disfiguring’ the NHS


By Jess Hacker
16 June 2022

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Racism and discrimination are ‘still disfiguring’ the NHS and limited opportunities are available to staff from ethnic minority backgrounds, a leading historian has said.

In a keynote speech, delivered today at the NHS Confed Expo, David Olusoga said that programmes made today to address racism and discrimination in the NHS risk implying that such attitudes are ‘historic rather than contemporary realities’.

The broadcaster said that ‘racism and discrimination [are] still disfiguring the health service and damaging the lives and opportunities of minority staff and users of the NHS’.

It comes days after a BMA report found that racism faced by ethnic minority doctors could force a mass exodus.

Mr Olusoga also said that ‘migrants that worked to build up the NHS’ were ‘routinely accused of putting pressure on the service’.

He said: ‘As we well know, and it’s been well documented, many of those who came to build the NHS in those decades endured verbal and physical abuse. They encountered racism and discrimination, not just on the streets of the communities that they served, but within the wards and the corridors of NHS hospitals.

‘A home office member from 1949 framed this racial abuse as an issue that should be addressed not with training, not with anti-racism education or a zero-tolerance policy, but by setting limits on the numbers of non-white NHS in any particular service.’

A report by Health Education England published last month found that more than one in three GPs in London said they experienced racial discrimination from patients in the past 12 months.

And according to a major survey carried out by the BMA in February, over 90% of Black and Asian doctors and medical students are concerned about racism in the medical profession.

Meanwhile, the CQC admitted earlier this year that its inspections may ‘inadvertently disadvantage’ ethnic minority GPs.

In September last year, a GP ‘nearly lost his sight’ in a racially motivated attack where an explosive device was thrown in his face.

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