NHS doctors from an ethnic minority background face a worse working experience than their white colleagues and are almost twice as likely to have experienced discrimination at work from a manager, team leader or colleague.
This is according to the inaugural Medical Workforce Race Equality Standard (MWRES) report, which indicates that urgent action needs to be taken by NHS trusts, medical education institutions and regulatory authorities in England to address the inequalities that still blight the medical profession.
The Workforce Race Equality Standard was launched in 2015 to document the different experiences of white and black and minority ethnic (BME) staff in the NHS, and to provide guidance on how trusts and clinical commissioning groups can achieve race equality.
In her foreword to the report, NHS chief people officer Prerana Issar says: “The starkest evidence of the disadvantages faced by BME doctors in the NHS was laid bare by the tragic deaths of doctors due to Covid-19 infection during this past year.
Working in the NHS
“This launch edition of the MWRES dataset honours their memory, as it marks the start of the strategy to bring all the stakeholders together to root out racism and discrimination among doctors working in the NHS. Besides, getting the strategy right for these doctors could shed light on how to tackle race inequality faced by other workforce groups in the NHS.”
The first report, covering 2020, finds that discrimination still persists despite ethnic minority representation in the NHS workforce (41.9%) far exceeding representation in the general population (14%).
Ethnic minority doctors across all grades are more likely than white staff to have experienced bullying, harassment and abuse from colleagues over the past 12 months, but the widest disparities are seen in doctors in training and specialty doctors. Nearly 30% of trainees experienced bullying and harassment from colleagues, compared with just over 20% of white trainees.
Some 22% of BME consultants (10% white consultants) and 25% of doctors in training (13% of white trainees) had personally experienced discrimination from a manager, team leader or colleague.
Medical and NHS dental staff from an ethnic minority background also earned on average 7% per year less than their white colleagues, with the biggest gap seen among consultants. The government today announced a 3% pay increase for NHS England staff.
Other findings include:
- BME doctors were twice as likely to receive a complaint or be referred to the General Medical Council compared to their white counterparts
- BME applicants are less likely to be accepted into medicine and dentistry training compared to white applicants
- The number of BME doctors has risen by a fifth since 2017, while the number of white doctors has only risen by 2.4%
- The shortlisting and interview process discriminates against BME applicants for consultant appointments. They have to apply for more posts than their white colleagues before being offered a job
- BME doctors are less likely than white doctors to believe that their trust provides equal opportunities for career progression or promotion.
The report identifies several areas for action, including:
- Organisations expressly communicating their intention to address inequality
- Setting targets and timelines for reducing the ethnic disparity in representation at consultant, clinical director and academic levels
- Narrowing the ethnicity gap in appointment of consultants after shortlisting
- Enhancing the leadership diversity of the royal colleges and arm’s length bodies
- Having senior officers in these organisations include performance objectives for measurable delivery of diversity outcomes as part of appraisals.
There is clearly a need for systemic, wide scale change across the entire NHS as the government should be embarrassed and spurred to action by this report” – Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA
“There is clearly a need for systemic, wide scale change across the entire NHS as the government should be embarrassed and spurred to action by this report,” he said.
“There can be no excuse for not tackling this issue; the evidence is clear and resounding. The government and organisations employing and training doctors have a responsibility to work towards building a more inclusive and supportive culture in the NHS. It is vital that they work to eliminate the systemic and outdated mechanisms that are unfairly disadvantaging ethnic minority doctors.”