Equality and inclusion matter, but even in 2016 they are still not a reality for many parts of the workforce.
The BMA recognises the importance of equality and inclusion – a diverse workforce that is representative of the wider population is beneficial for all. Research has indicated that patients benefit from improved health outcomes and there are better healthcare experiences for both patients and staff.
We have set out to analyse how representative the NHS is, shedding light on this issue with our Equality Lens.
The information resource, developed by the BMA’s new equality, inclusion and culture unit, brings together data on gender and ethnicity from across the medical workforce in all UK countries from 2010 to 2015.
Whether you are a doctor, medical student or patient, the Lens provides an accessible picture of the makeup of the medical profession, across various medical staff groups and the medical student population.
Let’s take a look at some of the key trends:
Our analysis of the data shows that there have been improvements in diversity amongst students and trainees but that these trends don’t continue at more senior levels.
For the reasons set out above, it’s vital that we take active steps to improve representation for women and ethnic minority groups amongst the whole profession.
Women are more likely than men to work part time, are more likely to be paid less, and progress at a slower rate than men through their careers. Understanding how many women opt for certain career paths and why they do so is essential in beginning to address these structural issues in medicine.
Ethnic minority groups and international medical graduates continue to be less likely to pass specialty exams than UK doctors, and experience a high level of bullying and harassment. Identifying reasons behind under-representation of BME doctors in certain branches of practice and staff grades, as well as the lack of reporting of ethnicity data, is crucial in understanding why these issues occur.
As our interview with Janet Bolaji shows, there are still real challenges facing male and female doctors from BME backgrounds.
Dr Bolaji describes the challenge of ‘not seeing someone who is similar to you or from the same background in a specialism you aspire to. They could be in a consultant role or any position – it would be helpful to have someone ahead of you, who came from where you came from’.
Role models are an important resource – clearly if more BME doctors could take up senior positions, more students and junior doctors from similar backgrounds can benefit from this support.
The BMA is using this data to provide an evidence base for our programmes on leadership support and skills, to support trainees who are combining work with caring responsibilities, and in tackling bullying and harassment, and the obstacles behind differential attainment.
This is the beginning of the conversation. The Lens is the first step in asking the question: what should we all be doing to increase diversity and improve representation among doctors and students?
It’s time to start coming up with some answers together.
Dinesh Napal is a policy advice and support officer (equality, inclusion and culture) at the BMA.
Access the Equality Lens resource, and vote in the poll.
Read our guidance on becoming a doctor and widening participation in medicine.
I am not sure that this sort of analysis is helpful because I think it is divisive and engenders resentment (in all groups); might it be better to simply focus resources on ensuring that no overt discrimination takes place?
Dr Peter Balfour [email protected]
Unconsious bias is the biggest, most deeply ingrained problem
I think this work is massively helpful because it shines a spotlight on the realities of working in medicine. The issues highlighted by the Lens may be uncomfortable for some people to face, but nonetheless they do exist and do need to be addressed. Far from being divisive, this much-needed work will help to shore up gap between inequality and equality - of opportunity, access and career development in the workplace. To suggest that we should not actually look at the situation, (as a previous commentator did), yet somehow magically be able to address it, is rather like proposing to carry out surgery with the lights off - and hoping for the best!
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