New hub on challenging racism and discrimination in healthcare

A new resource to support doctors facing racism at work has been launched by the General Medical Council (GMC) today.

The dedicated area brings together current GMC guidance and is focused on supporting those who experience discrimination. It gives advice on how to tackle it, whether personally or as a bystander. It also highlights expectations of employers and medical leaders to foster inclusive cultures, where people feel supported to challenge racism, and signposts to how and where a concern or issue can be raised.

Tackling discrimination and inequality continues to be an urgent priority for health services. A recent survey by the British Medical Association reported 76% of respondents had experienced racism in their workplace on at least one occasion in the last two years. The GMC has committed to working with organisations to drive forward change, setting targets on tackling inequality.

As well as collating guidance and signposting to further support, the hub looks at real-life examples where doctors have experienced racism, from explicit discrimination to micro-aggressions that often continue unchallenged.

A locum doctor anonymously shared comments received from colleagues which left them feeling they ‘had to work harder to prove themselves’ than their white counterparts, including: ‘I can’t pronounce your surname, can I just use your first name?’ and ‘Oh, not a foreign doctor again.’

Another doctor shared their experience of a patient’s carer asking to see another doctor as they ‘did not appear British’.

"We are clear: there is zero tolerance for racism of any kind, and we all have a responsibility to act when we witness it."

Professor Colin Melville

GMC Medical Director and Director of Education and Standards

The experiences highlight not just the impact of racism on those who suffer it, but the essential role of employers and witnesses in challenging racist behaviour, including:

  • expectations of those in senior positions in tackling and rooting out discrimination where it arises
  • duties of conduct towards colleagues and patients
  • resources for employers on creating inclusive non-discriminatory environments.

The section is the latest of 12 areas in an ethical hub, which brings together resources on how to apply GMC guidance in practice. The hub focuses on areas doctors often query or find most challenging and helps to address important ethical issues.

Professor Colin Melville, Medical Director and Director of Education and Standards at the GMC said:

‘Everyone has the right to come to work without fear of experiencing racism, but as we know only too well, and as the BMA’s recent survey underlines, this is a very real challenge that we must work together on across our healthcare system.

‘We are clear: there is zero tolerance for racism of any kind, and we all have a responsibility to act when we witness it.

‘We understand speaking up in the moment or acting upon racist behaviour in the workplace can be challenging or daunting, so it’s important for support and guidance to be readily available and easily accessible. Equally, we must encourage working cultures where doctors feel supported and empowered to speak up, if discrimination of any kind does take place.’

View the racism in the workplace ethical hub.

For advice on speaking up on discrimination, visit our dedicated webpage on speaking up.