BMA highlights race issue

July 4, 2003

Medical schools must make curriculum changes to help tackle racism in the health service, says the British Medical Association.

A BMA report, Racism in the Medical Profession: The Experience of UK Graduates, says racism blocks the career progression of doctors from ethnic minorities and from overseas.

A survey of 500 medical graduates found that 87 per cent of ethnic minority medical graduate respondents, and 53 per cent of all who answered, believed ethnicity had a significant effect on access to specialties.

Vivienne Nathanson, BMA head of science and ethics, said: "Shortlisting and appointment to medical training posts should be anonymised. This was called for around ten years ago. Also, medical schools should introduce modules on cultural diversity in the undergraduate curriculum."

Michael Powell, executive secretary of the Council of Heads of Medical Schools, said: "Medical schools are now already required by the General Medical Council to ensure students 'understand a range of social and cultural values, and differing views about healthcare and illness.'"

For example, students must recognise the need to make sure they are not prejudiced by patients' lifestyle, culture, beliefs, race, colour, gender, sexuality, age, mental or physical disability and social or economic status.

The BMA report publishes anecdotal evidence culled from focus groups from ethnic minority medical graduates.

One said: "I went for a national training programme and wasn't shortlisted.

I asked for feedback and one of them said: 'I chose you for a shortlisting, I'm not prejudiced against you. Unfortunately, others are.'"

Another said: "A great classic that you hear if you make any sort of complaint is 'perhaps you don't understand the English culture well enough'. I went to English public school, I understand English culture, and I understand English."

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