Intended for healthcare professionals


Ethnic minority staff and patients: a health service failure

BMJ 2019; 365 doi: (Published 21 May 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;365:l2226

The ethnicity of Dr Google

I look forward to this special issue, in particular further information regarding attitudes towards NHS staff in terms of complaints which can be arbitrary and dependent on bias (conscious or not).

A cursory look at the results of a google image search for the term “doctor” reveals a disparity between expectation and reality. Of the first 10 healthcare professionals that appear, every single one appears to show a someone who seems to be from a white background.

Of course, we have to bear in mind that the image search is likely to include a high proportion stock images where advertising companies use photo models to portray doctors. Nevertheless, such imagery is pervasive throughout our society, whether it is online, on television or in advertising.

Is it therefore surprising that when patients do access healthcare, their preconceived image of what a doctor should look like can be very different from their actual experience? Do mismatches between expectation and reality increase the likelihood of a complaint?

Perhaps even more pernicious is the effect such imagery could be having on potential medical school applicants who may feel they have to conform to such stereotypes to gain access to the club (or not bothering to apply at all).

Competing interests: Blogger at

01 June 2019
Sati Heer-Stavert