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GPs facing ‘appalling’ racism, HEE report reveals


By Caitlin Tilley
9 May 2022

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There is ‘shocking’ evidence of ‘appalling’ levels of racism towards GPs in London, a report by Health Education England has revealed.

The report, published today, found that more than one in three GPs said they experienced racial discrimination from patients in the past 12 months, and one in five experienced racism from other staff.

The majority of 1,025 survey respondents said the racism involved subtle comments or actions, while others reported direct comments or actions, as well as aggressive or threatening behaviour.

The report is the first London-wide survey of discrimination and harassment in primary care, and included people from general practice, community pharmacy, dentistry and optometry.

HEE deputy medical director of primary care Professor Simon Gregory said in his foreword to the report: ‘This report is shocking evidence of terrible, indeed appalling, levels of discrimination across protected characteristics and with much intersectionality, but especially shocking levels of racial discrimination.’

He said: ‘There is considerable evidence that the UK is systemically racist, and that the NHS is a systemically racist workplace.’

Professor Gregory added: ‘I defy you not to be heartbroken by its content and ask you to turn that into a commitment for change and to change.’

The survey also found:

  • One in five GPs have been discriminated against by patients due to gender.
  • More than one in 10 GPs said they had considered leaving or had left their role in the past year due to racism.
  • Half of the GPs who experienced racial discrimination did not report it as nothing would be done.
  • GPs were less likely than many other roles to report racial discrimination or harassment.
  • GPs were less likely than nursing, other direct care roles and administrative or managerial roles to know where to go for help (64%), feel comfortable raising concerns (59%), or that their organisation would address the issue (64%).

One survey respondent said: ‘One of our receptionists was called a n**ger by a patient and I witnessed this patient assault other receptionists by throwing something at them and shouting. 

‘I was distressed by this incident but more deeply distressed by what I perceived as a lack of leadership and action taken by my practice. The junior practice manager arranged removal of the patient, however not a single partner spoke to myself or any of the receptionists involved.’

Another said: ‘Unconscious bias is sewn into the fabric of the NHS. Very junior inexperienced White colleagues [are] invited to senior positions in the CCG, GP Federation and Primary Care Network. 

They said that relevant experience and extra qualifications are ‘discarded if you are non-White’, adding, ‘it’s so overt’.

In the report’s introduction, HEE London workforce race strategy primary care strategic lead Dr Naureen Bhatti said: ‘The NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) has led to progress across several areas in secondary care but to date primary care has been excluded.’

Key actions the London primary care in workforce race strategy will take:

  • Ensure all primary care staff can seek advice and support if they have concerns relating to discrimination or harassment of any type, including access to freedom to speak up guardians
  • A zero-tolerance campaign and policies
  • Development of a ‘Gold Standards Workforce Race Equality Strategy Framework’. – for practices 
  • De-bias recruitment toolkit to ensure a workforce and leadership that reflects the diversity of local communities
  • Safe spaces including access to staff networks
  • WRES Multi- professional Leadership Networks in Primary Care
  • All primary care colleagues have access to EDI training in all ICS areas.

Source: HEE

According to a major survey carried out by the BMA in February, over 90% of Black and Asian doctors and medical students think racism in the medical profession is an issue.

A previous report by an LMC found that 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.

And the CQC admitted 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.

This story first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.

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