Equality is a value often associated with the NHS – but not one reflected in its workforce, BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul has said.
In his keynote address to the BMA annual representative meeting, Dr Nagpaul said doctors from BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) backgrounds were ‘more likely to be bullied, less likely to raise concerns, more likely to feel blamed and less likely to feel included'.
Dr Nagpaul raised awareness of BAME doctors and medical students having lower pass rates in UK exams, despite no evidence of a lack of ability.
He said the BMA had campaigned hard against this ‘gross injustice’ but that doctors should recognise this is not ‘someone else’s problem’, and announced a new ‘equality matters’ programme to provide training on bias, equality, diversity and inclusion to every elected member, with all BMA members able to access online modules.
'Standards of civility'
Dr Nagpaul pledged to put measures for members to speak up in place, including an independent help line, early intervention and learning to resolve issues.
He said: ‘We must role model the standards of civility that we expect of others so that doctors can demand the same of their own workplace in our determination to stamp out discrimination across the NHS.’
Fairness and equality was also about ‘proper pay, terms and conditions’, Dr Nagpaul said, warning that ‘perverse and punitive’ pension rules for doctors would ultimately make patients suffer because it would drive doctors to retire early or not take on extra responsibilities.
Dr Nagpaul used his speech to send a message to the Government.
He said: ‘I’ll say this to ministers. If you want doctors to pay to go to work, they won’t. I tell you who pays – our patients, left without doctors in a desperately under-staffed health service.
‘The Treasury is taxing doctors out of the NHS and seriously undermining patient care. It must act now to avert a workforce meltdown.’
'Working on goodwill'
The BMA has pressed the prime minister and chancellor to make changes and will soon produce a pensions calculator to help doctors to protect themselves.
Dr Nagpaul urged the Government and Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration to take action over stagnating pay for doctors.
‘The NHS owes a debt of gratitude to doctors working on goodwill alone – 90 per cent of us work above contracted hours for no extra pay,’ Dr Nagpaul said.
He added: ‘For years the only increase we’ve seen is in the resentment doctors feel towards a self-defeating process of flawed DDRB recommendations and derisory Government pay awards.
‘We’ve had a decade in which doctors’ pay has been eroded by as much as 30 per cent. The DDRB has failed in its duty to be fair and independent.’
Dr Nagpaul also reflected on the BMA’s Caring, supportive, collaborative project, which aims to outline a future vision for the NHS.
He said: ‘I’ve consistently argued that the BMA must come up with solutions as well as highlighting the problems in today’s health service. As doctors we diagnose and solve problems daily, and as frontline medics we know what needs to change – better than any politician or armchair policy maker.
‘Fundamentally, this is about the BMA as the voice of doctors demonstrating thought leadership – and forcing politicians and policymakers to take note of our views, rather than the other way around.’
Watch Dr Nagpaul's speech
Read a Q&A with Dr Nagpaul about the BMA's Caring, supportive, collaborative project
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