Headlines: June 25th, 2003

Racism is blocking the career progression of doctors from ethnic minorities and from overseas according to a new report from the British Medical Association as part of its cohort study which tracks the careers of around 500 medical graduates who qualified in 1995.The study ‘Racism in the Medical Profession: The Experience of UK Graduates’ shows that racism is evident in access to training and careers and it says racism is seen as “acceptable” behaviour within the NHS. Doctors participating in the survey were asked their views on whether their ethnicity was a factor in their career progression.

Key findings from the survey showed that 62% of doctors from an ethnic minority believed ethnicity was significant for medical training, 70% believed it played a significant role in early career opportunities, 87% believed it had a significant effect on access to specialties and 86% felt it played a significant role in career advancement.

Four focus groups involving 33 doctors were used to examine the issues in greater depth. Three themes emerged from discussions on how the system could be changed. They were the importance of making the selection process for training posts more transparent and objective; the importance of having a personal advocate, for example a consultant from a different specialty, to whom a doctor could go without worrying that they were jeopardising their career and finally the importance of changing medical school training, to introduce issues of cultural diversity into the syllabus.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA’s Head of Science and Ethics, said the results of the survey made uncomfortable reading, especially the reports from the focus groups. She said diversity existed in the medical profession, but individuals were not getting equitable opportunities.

The complete 2003 cohort study will be published on Wednesday 2 July during the Annual Representatives Meeting.