In the mid 70’s, when my father left England and returned to India with his family, after 12 long years working as an NHS doctor, he would say that he hadn’t wanted his children to grow up as second class citizens. Years later when I relinquished my Indian citizenship, I tried to convince him that modern Britain was a very different place, a multi-ethnic melting pot of cultural diversity. Now, in 2020, I am compelled to ask if this is really true.
On the surface, today’s NHS is very different to the one my father worked in. There is a real recognition that racial discrimination exists and a strong desire to stamp it out. But herein lies a conundrum. The BAME workforce, irrespective of staff group, still face discrimination but in today’s world it’s not always so easy to spot. Rather than manifesting itself overtly as in my father’s day today it can instead be measured in a lack of opportunity, more limited career progression, a lack of recognition and even more punitive interpretation of rules. The 2019 GMC report ‘Fair to Refer’ reported that 1.1% of BAME doctors were referred to the GMC by employers between 2012–17 compared to 0.5% of white doctors.
My point is it’s much harder to fight a shadowy enemy who hides behind a cloak of respectability. Wherever racism exists, in whatever form it takes and whomever it comes from, it must not be ignored or shrugged off. It has to be addressed. We should all have the confidence that our organisation will listen and act.
To my BAME colleagues I say, stay strong and believe in yourself. There are systems in place to protect you and to help you succeed, people who will fight your corner. Never give up. To the Senior Leadership Team, I would say hear our concerns with open hearts, respond fairly and objectively and stand by your amazing, diverse and talented BAME workforce.