BAME surgeon standing in an operating theatre

Positive change in the workplace not experienced equally by BAME doctors

A new report by the General Medical Council (GMC) has revealed Black and minority ethnic (BAME) doctors are less likely to report improvements in workplace teamwork during the Covid-19 pandemic than their white counterparts.

The findings have been published as part of GMC’s annual report – The state of medical education and practice in the UK – and found that while 89% of doctors overall reported at least one positive change in working during the pandemic, despite the pressures caused by the virus, the percentages were much lower among BAME staff.

According to survey data included in the findings, positive changes were recorded more frequently among white doctors. It showed:

  • Positive changes to teamworking between doctors were reported by 68% of white doctors, compared to 55% for BAME doctors
  • Positive change in the sharing of knowledge and experience across the medical profession was reported by 61% of white doctors, compared to 46% of BAME doctors
  • Positive change in the speed at which workplace changes were made was by 57% of white doctors, compared to 38% of BAME doctors

GMC Chief Executive Charlie Massey said: “This continues to be an incredibly challenging time for UK health services, and the hard work and commitment shown by healthcare professionals has been humbling.

“But it remains a concern that where there have been positive impacts on workplaces, BME doctors were less likely to experience them than their white colleagues.

“We know BAME doctors too often lack the supportive and compassionate leadership that is required to thrive. Doctors of all grades, and from all backgrounds, need and deserve the same levels of support if they are to provide the best possible care for patients, in what will continue to be difficult months ahead.”

NHS Providers director of policy and strategy Miriam Deakin added: "It is troubling to see that where there have been positive impacts on workplaces in the face of the pandemic, such as teamwork, knowledge, and information sharing, these are not shared to the same degree by Black, Asian and minority ethnic doctors.

"This report clearly shows that within the NHS, there is still much work to do to improve equality and diversity in the workplace, and we must continue to invest in support for this across the health and care system.

"Trusts are already working hard to ensure staff are treated fairly and with the respect they deserve, for example by introducing initiatives to improve culture and staff engagement.

“We are pleased to see that the majority of trainees, and nearly two-fifths of doctors overall have felt a positive impact from increased visibility of senior leaders during the pandemic. But, as this report shows, there is clearly more to be done.

"Consistent, high-quality leadership is a crucial element for improvement in these areas. It is up to NHS leaders - collectively and individually - to commit to shifting the culture of organisations. This includes creating a more inclusive leadership which reflects the diversity of local populations and the NHS workforce."

Despite the discrepancies, most UK doctors who responded to the GMC survey, both BAME and white, said there had been positive impacts, such as teamwork and knowledge and information sharing, in spite of the pandemic’s significant demands on the country’s health system.

Covid-19 has proven to be a hugely impactful and disruptive situation, with a widespread impact on doctors’ working lives. As many as 81% reported experiencing significant changes to their work, while 42% had been redeployed during the pandemic, often in part due to elective procedures being postponed or cancelled during the first wave of the pandemic.

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