Responding to the release of the report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA chair of council, said:
“The BMA refutes the central argument in the report that structural race inequality is not a major factor affecting the outcomes and life chances of many of our citizens. The argument of the authors that factors such as geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion had ‘more significant impact on life chances than the existence of racism’ seems to ignore the reality that these very factors affect some ethnic minorities disproportionately. The statistics are harrowing: nearly half of Black African households live in poverty; maternal deaths are higher for mothers from Black and Asian ethnic groups; South Asian communities in Scotland have higher avoidable hospital admissions than white communities, with the highest rate in Pakistani men and women.
“This is a fundamental flaw in the report, which fails to acknowledge that root structural inequalities have directly led to many ethnic minorities being more greatly affected by social determinants of health. This is all the more disappointing because, when we responded to the Commission, we identified these very points.
“The report also misses the negative experiences of many people with ethnic minority backgrounds in the workplace. In the NHS, there is irrefutable evidence of discrimination faced by ethnic minority doctors. Research has shown that ethnic minority doctors report bullying and harassment at twice the rate of their white colleagues, are twice to as likely to be referred for disciplinary processes by their employers, and are less likely to be offered top consultant posts resulting in a manifest ethnicity pay gap. During COVID, the BMA’s tracker surveys showed that ethnic minority doctors were more likely to feel pressured to see patients without adequate PPE, and more afraid to speak out about safety concerns for fear of recrimination or it affecting their careers.
“The report highlights that an increased risk of dying from COVID-19 is mainly due to an increased risk of exposure to infection. However, the report fails to highlight that a greater proportion of ethnic minority people work in insecure and public-facing roles exposing them to the virus, including in transport, hospitality, and retail, and has failed to recognise the structural factors that lead ethnic minority people to work in these jobs. Even currently, the latest data shows that, a year into the pandemic, 28% of intensive care beds are occupied by ethnic minority patients, twice the proportion in the general population.
“It is only by recognising the structural racism in our society, something which this report fails to do, that we can begin to challenge these deep inequalities and build a fairer future.”
Notes to editors
The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.