Racism in medicine

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.323.7321.1125 (Published 10 November 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:1125

Regional arbitration panel may offer solution

  1. B R Pal, consultant neonatologist (locum) (BRPal@fsmail.net)
  1. Department of Women's and Child Health, University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire, Coventry CV2 2DX
  2. Staffordshire General Hospital, Stafford ST16 3SA
  3. Communicable Disease Unit, Chester
  4. Greenwood Institute of Child Health, University of Leicester, Leicester LE3 0QU
  5. Child Development Unit, Gulson Hospital, Coventry CV1 2HR
  6. Springvale Group Practice, 63 Springfield Road, Belfast BT12 7DN
  7. Department of Community Health Sciences, Public Health Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9AG

    EDITOR—I applaud Bhopal for writing the truth about what each one of us has to face, personally and professionally during service in the NHS.1 It is time we all recognised that covert and overt racist practices occur within the NHS, and there needs to be an immediate arbitration panel in each region that can resolve issues speedily and hear both sides of disputes independently.

    The Canadians have such a model, and it has been extremely effective in minimising, almost excluding, any racist practices in the health environment. I am from a family of doctors who have worked in the NHS for over 60 doctor years. Each one of us has suffered discrimination. I have always tried to place the personal insults behind me, hoping that my personal and professional abilities would show through. At junior level there was mutual tolerance. The transient nature of work provided relief without the need to speak out. But once I became a consultant, I experienced such gross discrimination that I was forced to resign (only 8% of consultant posts are staffed by doctors of non-white ethnic origin, and even fewer, 2.4%, are staffed by non-white women). Not one person in the trust I worked for thanked me or apologised. The illegal manoeuvres within employment laws were overlooked. I felt the only path open to me was through legal channels but found the legal arena of little help despite the race relations and human rights law. The NHS and those within it collude, have unlimited access to finance, and bring witnesses who are coached to commit perjury. The legal profession is no better; there is plenty of evidence for their institutional racism.

    If doctors from an ethnic group speak out, they are seen as difficult, their jobs are placed at risk (which is reflected …

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