Medicine urged to confront race bias

June 22, 2001

Ethnic minority doctors face discrimination from the moment they apply to medical school to the day they retire, according to a report out this week from the King's Fund, an independent think-tank.

Naaz Coker, editor of Racism in Medicine and race and diversity director at the fund, said: "Medical schools must review their applications processes. They need to be completely transparent and all applicants should be interviewed by people trained not just in equal opportunities, but also in the requirements of the race-relations legislation."

In a chapter on racial discrimination in medical schools in the report, Aneez Esmail, a senior lecturer in general practice at the University of Manchester, said: "For nearly a decade... almost no medical schools published information on their admissions processes, and attempts to get information into the public domain were almost always thwarted."

In some medical schools, nearly 40 per cent of the intake is from ethnic minorities, but this masks underrepresentation from certain ethnic groups.

League tables published in the mid-1990s showed that at some medical schools white candidates were nearly three times more likely to be accepted for a place than ethnic minority applicants with the same A-level grades.

Next month, the council of heads of medical schools and the Commission for Racial Equality are to hold a joint seminar on the Race-Relations Amendment Act, which received royal assent last year.

Michael Powell, executive secretary of the council, said: "We do now look carefully at the breakdown of applications and applicants.

"Applications are falling at the moment and we need to encourage more from different ethnic minority groups."

Donald Irvine, president of the General Medical Council, said:

"Discrimination must have no place in medicine."

The GMC has enlarged its racial equality group to cover all equal opportunity matters.

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