Partha Kar: To tackle racism, the NHS needs policies with teethBMJ 2020; 369 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m2583 (Published 30 June 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;369:m2583
All rapid responses
The criticisms expressed  in response to Kar’s previous column seems to be mainly in relation to his specific suggestion that “BME staff may not be getting the same level of care and attention as other colleagues” rather than an attack on his attempt to discuss whether “racism was a factor in the increased mortality rate from covid-19 among people from ethnic minority backgrounds” . I believe, such criticism in rapid responses were justified as his suggestion of differential treatment by NHS staff was not only an ill-timed, highly sensitive speculative remark but without any objective evidence to support the same; however, if Kar has any sort of evidence to back up his aforesaid suspicion, then he should not hesitate in disclosing without delay.
As for his colleague’s personal email, it would have been wiser if such criticism was submitted to the BMJ (as a rapid response) rather than using a personal email; if an NHS email was used, then it has the potential to raise further issues as Kar’s column in a medical journal was in his personal capacity and given the suggestion, the content of email has caused some upset to Kar which could be classed as unwanted conduct or falling within the spectrum of bullying/intimidation.
Whilst I disagree that terms such as BAME should be ditched, there is some force in his claim that “NHS responds to targets and associated penalties”. It is not a question of NHS policies lacking teeth but it is the failure to implement the powers conferred by Parliament, s149 (Public section equality duty) in particular . Aimed at improving equality of treatment, s149 also authorises “treating some persons more favourably than others”, so the NHS must give greater priority to such lawful positive action if genuinely serious about addressing systemic racial discrimination within the NHS.
As for reluctance to accept even the possibility of racism, it is well recognised in race discrimination law.
Competing interests: No competing interests