Dame Clare Marx’s message to the profession

Professionalism is at the heart of the health service, every patient, every day. To all of you, those treating patients in the community, in general practice and in hospitals, to those giving advice and supporting colleagues, and to those who have had to stand back and watch and wait – thank you.

Each doctor will have their own story to tell. This pandemic has taken its toll in different ways, and for some its impact will have been particularly painful.

Coronavirus has brought us all face-to-face with the reality of health in the UK. The deprived and vulnerable are most at risk. Past action has not been effective to change health inequalities.

Health workers have died. The deaths of doctors represent not only a profound loss to their families and patients, but to our profession, which was made richer by their contributions. As I wrote to the families of those doctors who died, it was clear to me just how many were from a BME background.

GMC research has shown that BME doctors’ experience of medicine can be sharply different to that of their white colleagues. As our Fair to Refer? report highlighted, some doctors are treated differently, some feel less able to raise concerns, and some are not provided with the feedback or support they need. These same issues also pervade education and training environments. We see that racism and other forms of discrimination still exist in medicine, as in so many walks of life. That is why we have been working, not only in the GMC, but across the system to facilitate change.

Addressing these entrenched issues requires focus and commitment. We will need to be humble about what we don’t know and decisive in implementing solutions. The Black Lives Matter movement serves as a reminder that this is urgent. We can all be part of the change. All of us in medicine share that responsibility.

The GMC is committed to doing what we need to do, and to using our organisation and processes to change experiences for BME colleagues. We will work even harder with our Strategic Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Forum to ensure the issues raised aren’t just kept on the agenda, but addressed.

We can be our best when we look after each other. Tackling inequality is a fundamental part of that. To improve the lives of patients and colleagues alike, each and every one of us must play our part.

Once again, thank you for your hard work, skill and dedication over these challenging times.