Intended for healthcare professionals


Something borrowed from the blues?

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 06 March 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:616

We can use Lawrence inquiry findings to help eradicate racial discrimination in the NHS

  1. Kwame McKenzie, Clinical lecturer in psychiatry
  1. Department of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, London SE5 8AZ

    News p 625 Personal view p 679 Reviews p 678

    The Lawrence inquiry into racism in the police, published last week in Britain, is notable for its robust definition of institutional—rather than individual—racism.1 The report follows an inquiry into the racist murder of a black teenager, Stephen Lawrence, and details the failure of London's Metropolitan Police to investigate the murder properly. It found no policies that deliberately discriminated but that when policies were enacted they produced differential treatment for white and black people. In examining the organisational failings surrounding the murder investigation the inquiry team, chaired by William Macpherson, has offered a way of looking at and tackling racism at organisational level that has implications far beyond the police force. As the report concludes, “It is incumbent upon every institution to examine their policies and the outcomes of their policies and practices to guard against disadvantaging any section of our communities.”1

    Allegations of racial discrimination are not new in the NHS. There is evidence of poorer access to and use of services by minority ethnic patients 2 3; of differences in the treatment of minority and majority ethnic groups4; of differences in infant mortality, perinatal mortality, and morbidity and mortality from several adult diseases 2 3; and of discrimination in recruitment to medical school, examinations while at medical school, shortlisting for jobs once qualified, and the …

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