Government refusal to acknowledge evidence of structural racism leaves root causes unaddressed, says BMA

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA.

Location: England
Last reviewed: 17 March 2022

In reaction to the Government’s response to its Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (CRED) report, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA chair of council, said:

“When the CRED report was published last March, the BMA was clear that it had failed to grasp the reality of structural racism in the health service as detailed in our report ‘A missed opportunity’. We have subsequently lobbied the Government on numerous occasions to use its response to correct this omission. While today’s response does make some important recommendations for change, it is deeply disappointing that the Government has once again ignored the fundamental reality of structural and systemic factors that result in people from ethnic minorities facing inequalities in health.

“It is positive that the report promises to investigate areas such as racial bias in medical equipment, reduced life expectancy and poorer maternal health, along with a pledge to hold healthcare providers to account for ethnic disparities in their workforce. However, the report plays down some ethnic health disparities, quoting examples of improved health outcomes amongst certain racial groups with certain medical conditions, while ignoring the stark findings from the recent NHS Health and Race Observatory rapid review, which revealed vast inequalities for those from ethnic minority communities across a range of health services including mental health.

“The Government has also failed to acknowledge or put forward an action plan to address the unequal adverse experience of ethnic minority healthcare workers in the NHS. There is indisputable evidence that doctors from ethnic minorities face additional hurdles, increased levels of bullying and harassment, poorer career progression, and excessive levels of disciplinary procedures, which we laid bare in our Racism in Medicine interim findings report. In fact, systematic racism is often wrongly assumed to just be ‘part of the job’ for thousands of ethnic minority doctors and healthcare workers.

“The Government’s response to the CRED report comes in the same week that the BMA hosted a memorial service to commemorate those doctors who died from COVID-19, of which 85% were doctors from ethnic minority backgrounds – a statistic that defies random variation. This just serves to reinforce the reality of structural factors that placed certain doctors at increased risk from Covid. It is imperative that the NHS treats its workforce with the same values of equality that it espouses on patient care.

“If the Government will not openly acknowledge the existence of structural racism in society, it cannot begin to tackle the root causes that have led to unacceptable health disparities affecting certain ethnic groups. By refusing to listen to the lived experience of doctors and other healthcare workers from ethnic minority backgrounds, we will continue to see the unacceptable reality of certain groups of doctors suffering disadvantage.”

Ends

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.