The NHS was founded on the principles of fairness and that all patients regardless of their background should be cared for equally. Yet these principles are not a reality for many who work in our health service and the patients we care for.
The brutal death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in America has shown inequality, racism and discrimination still scar black peoples’ lives across the world. For the black community it is a painful reminder of the parallels in the systemic racism here in the UK.
Black lives should matter to every individual and every medical professional. Racism and discrimination breeds health inequalities impacting on our patients, it adversely affects our colleagues and at its worst it kills, with black women five times more likely to die during childbirth than white women in the UK.
These health inequalities are all too visible in the toll COVID-19 is having on black, asian and minority ethnic communities in the UK. More than 90 per cent of doctors who have died from the virus to date are from a BAME background. Unless the government engages in actions not just words, then the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to disproportionately impact on BAME healthcare workers and the communities they serve.
We stand in solidarity with black healthcare workers and the black communities in the UK, America and around the world and renew our commitment to bringing about the change needed to eradicate racism and discrimination.
But this commitment is nothing unless we all take action to address the enduring injustices faced by black people and BAME healthcare workers here in the UK.
The structural underrepresentation of BAME people in NHS healthcare leadership must end and our Equality Matters advocacy programme launched last year to promote equality for all doctors lays the foundation on which employers must work with us to end bullying, harassment and discrimination in the NHS.
The medical schools which nurture the doctors of tomorrow can and must take a proactive stand to rid their campuses of discrimination and implement our Charter to prevent the racial harassment that squashes the medical careers of young black medics.
Building on the work we’ve taken forward with our Charter, we will be engaging further with black medical organisations to support their work on inclusive learning and the mentoring of black medical students. We will be exploring further joint action in the coming weeks.
And we recognise too that we as an employer need to lead by example to do more to address under-representation at a staff level and to address the concerns of black members of staff.
However, these actions on their own will not eradicate the racial injustices black people face every day. That requires societal change and the iron will of us all to work together to make our nation and our health service a fairer and more compassionate place so that black lives do truly matter.
The decision to pass ARM motion 43 and support the Black Lives Matter movement and its overarching aim to eradicate all racism and injustices faced by Black people across the world was taken by the BMA’s Representative Body. It is not an endorsement of specific organisations or tactics. The BMA interprets this motion, as we believe the vast majority of Representative Body delegates did during the ARM vote, to refer to the broader ‘movement’ rather than support for any single organisation.
What can you do to support #BlackLivesMatter?
Sign petitions and donate
Every signature represents another voice saying the situation cannot be ignored. You can also support those who tragically lose loved ones to pay for funeral costs and donate to charities and organisations actively fighting against racial injustice. Find out more about how you can support #BlackLivesMatter.
Support your black colleagues
For your colleagues it can be difficult. This is an emotional and traumatic experience, and you should be mindful of the toll this may be taking on your black colleagues, so ask how you can provide material support.
To understand is the beginning, to act is the result.
"Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And that's the only way forward." - Ijeoma Oluo
Speak to people and recognise what you don't understand and be willing to learn.