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Tuesday, July 6, 1999 Published at 17:02 GMT 18:02 UK


'After Stephen, end NHS racism'

The NHS has been accused of institutional racism

The NHS is institutionally racist and the British Medical Association should gather evidence so the government can introduce strategies to end racial abuse, doctors have said.

They produced examples of racism at the association's Annual Representative Meeting in Belfast on Tuesday.

They said that following the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, it was essential that the BMA took action to end racism in the health service.

It could not become complacent and presume that it was immune from charges of racism itself, they said.

Records of racism

Dr Mike Donnelly, a consultant from Sunderland, said: "We will all have heard or read of colleagues who've been subject to racial abuse."

He called on the association to gather evidence of racist incidents and practices to be presented to Health secretary Frank Dobson.

The government should then develop strategies to tackle the problems the report highlights.

"It is intolerable that some colleagues have to put up with verbal and sometimes physical racial abuse," he said.

Cultural problems

Dr Anthoni Nicholas-Pillai, a GP in East London, said racism could be found throughout the NHS.

He said: "If you take 10 people of the same background they will take their culture into that situation."

"The only way to stop this and make us all civilised is to report and monitor this."

Dr Mukti Bhattacharyya, a consultant at Manchester Royal Infirmary, proposed a second motion calling on the BMA to work to expose examples of discrimination throughout the health service.

"This is not about ethnic minorities alone, but about all minority groups," he said.

A person's sexuality, having English as a second language and being a woman were all factors that could lead to discrimination, he said.

Evidence of discrimination

Dr Sam Everington, also a GP in East London, pointed the finger for racist attitudes at the deans of medical schools.

He said his research showed that simply having an ethnic minority-sounding name halved a person's chances of getting into medical school.

However, when confronted with this evidence, the medical school deans did nothing.

"Correction," he said, "they invited me to one of their conferences to speak on the topic 'Have equal opportunities gone too far?'."

He also pointed to a report published last month showing that people from ethnic minorities were less likely to get a place at university overall, but three times less likely to get a place at medical school.

"This is institutionalised racism in the NHS - the deans have taken it to a new art form," he said.

"We owe it to students like Stephen Lawrence applying to universities and medical school to ensure the future doctors of this country never need to face this sort of racism again."

Education the key

Dr Neil Ashford, a member of the BMA's consultants committee from Norwich, warned that the basis of institutionalised racism was that it was "unwitting", and stemmed from ignorance of other cultures.

Many doctors who did not consider themselves racist may well be contributing to the problem without realising it, he said.

"There are three ways of ending this discrimination - education, education and education," he said.

The association voted overwhelmingly in favour of the motion.

Dr Donnelly said he would use next year's meeting to check on what progress had been made.

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