Headlines: June 19th, 2001

Black and Asian doctors are demoralised, bitter and angry about racism in the medical profession. In ‘Racism in Medicine’ published by the King’s Fund it is claimed that discrimination begins in medical schools and affects the whole of a doctor’s career. This includes harassment and bullying, from both colleagues and patients. Recent figures show that for many years they have been far less likely than white colleagues to get the best jobs in medicine they are still more likely to end up working in unpopular specialties and in inner-city general practice. They are also far less likely to become consultants.The book shows that prejudicial assumptions about the abilities and lifestyles of black and Asian doctors are commonplace among white colleagues. Such assumptions hold back people’s careers and can sometimes expose them to abuse and exclusion.

‘Racism in Medicine’ calls for wide-ranging reforms by the NHS and the professional bodies. It argues that, to implement last year’s Race Relations Amendment Act, NHS chief executives and personnel managers should take a bigger role in the recruitment of doctors. It calls on the leaders of the medical profession to eliminate racism from medical schools and to monitor the career paths of black and Asian doctors. It urges action where necessary to ensure none are prevented from meeting their full potential on the grounds of ethnicity or colour.

The book has been welcomed by Sir Donald Irvine, president of the General Medical Council, who said: “Discrimination must have no place in medicine.”