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‘Distressing’ report finds more than half of BAME GP staff face racism at work

‘Distressing’ report finds more than half of BAME GP staff face racism at work
By Awil Mohamoud
6 May 2021

More than half of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) primary care staff have experienced racism at work coming from either patients or fellow colleagues, a report by an LMC has found.

The BMA said the findings were ‘very distressing’, adding that they ‘highlight the significant steps that must be taken to tackle the unacceptable levels of discrimination in general practice’ as a whole.

Humberside LMC surveyed 238 primary care professionals, including 89 from non-white British backgrounds, in a racism survey in December 2020, finding a ‘large number’ of examples where patients refused to receive care from BAME staff as well as complaints suspected as being linked to race, and racist abuse and harrasment.

Roughly two thirds of Asian or Asian-British and mixed-race participants reported being subject to racism at some point in their professional lives, with the same true of almost 60% of black or black-British staff.

However, the survey found that only around half of BAME primary care staff felt empowered to speak up when they witnessed or experienced racism.

Roughly one in six BAME respondents felt their career choice had been affected by racism or discrimination, while more than one in five said it had impacted their training, education and development, according to the report.

An anonymous participant in the survey said they felt they had to leave their specialty training as they were ‘told by the dean for postgraduate training ‘we do not want people who are not from around here’.

The report said participants also ‘frequently reported’ patients refusing to be cared for by a person of colour on the basis of their name or surname, and found ‘many examples’ where staff felt racism played a role in a patient filing a complaint against them, with overt racism shown in some cases.

The report said racism also took place between colleagues and through ‘several forms’, with ‘frequent generalisations based on ethnic background, as well specific racist incidents’.

While the report showed primary care staff faced racially aggravated abuse and harassment, it found that ‘microaggressions’ made up a significant and more frequent part of their experience of racism. Participants, for example, mentioned being at the receiving end of statements expressing surprise at how well they spoke English.

Humberside LMC medical director and lead on the report Dr Zoe Norris said it was ‘not an easy read’.

But she added: ‘We hope that, through shining a light on these issues, this will be the beginning of a conversation between all of us working in primary care to tackle discrimination.’

The LMC also put forward an action plan to be implemented by next year, which includes reviewing the makeup of its committees and boards for representativeness, expanding and promoting existing equality, diversity and inclusion training and developing an anti-racism charter. 

BMA GP executive committee member and workforce lead Dr Krishna Kasaraneni said: ‘This report is very distressing and highlights the significant steps that must be taken to tackle the unacceptable levels of discrimination experienced by black and ethnic minority staff and patients in general practice. 

‘All doctors and staff have the right to work in an environment that values diversity and is inclusive which is of benefit not only to the staff themselves but also to the patients at practices.

‘In order to progress on race equality, we need a joint effort from everyone involved in primary care and everyone has a responsibility to act by calling out all forms of discrimination. But this goes beyond individual efforts and requires a much wider systemic change which gets to the very root of the issues’.

Last month, the BMA expressed ‘deep concerns’ with the Government-commissioned report on race and ethnic disparities, stating that it failed to consider the ‘irrefutable evidence of discrimination faced by ethnic minority doctors at all stages of their career’.

This story first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.

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