Doctors’ lives ‘destroyed’ by widespread racism forcing doctors out of their profession

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Pervasive racism in the medical profession is destroying the lives of many doctors and forcing some to quit their jobs, according to a new report.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has warned of a ‘mass exodus’ of staff due to persistent and intolerable levels of discrimination and said there is a ‘systemic failure’ in the NHS which needs to be addressed.

A doctor said STV News patients were often “surprised” when they heard his accent because he “didn’t sound Scottish”.

General practitioner Amir Iqbal said racism in the profession can manifest itself in different ways, adding that some examples were less obvious than others.

“You have a skin tone, you have a beard…you look Scottish but you don’t…some people have openly noticed that.”

Doctor Amir Iqbal

“It’s working twice as hard as people you know are better, just to be on a level playing field,” he said.

“When it came time for me to become a partner, I found it very difficult to get a partnership.

“When patients hear my voice and see me, they sometimes do a double take – because they think ‘you clearly don’t look like I thought you were going to look’.

“You have a skin tone, you have a beard…you look Scottish but you don’t…some people have openly noticed that.”

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BMA chairman Dr Raj Padmanabhan said some doctors were missing out on opportunities because of their race.

Almost a third of doctors surveyed said they had considered leaving the NHS, according to the BMA report.

He warns that the profession is now facing a “mass exodus” of staff.

“If I can sum it up in one word, it’s mostly exclusion,” said Dr Raj Padmanabhan, chairman of BMA Scotland’s Race Equality Forum.

“Nobody wants to come to work feeling miserable.”

Dr Raj Padmanabhan, Chair of BMA Scotland’s Race Equality Forum

“Exclusion from career opportunities, greater scrutiny of their work, social exclusion, simple things like mispronunciation of their names and the phenomenon of ‘otherness’.

“It’s not good for morale. No one wants to come to work feeling unhappy.

“When you see that you know that despite doing a good job, you don’t get other opportunities and things like that that have a negative impact on morale and even more so on physical and mental health.”

Aberdeen-based GP Dr Adaeze Ifezulike said issues were raised a decade ago but continued to have a “demoralizing effect” on staff.

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Dr Adaeze Ifezulike said the same issues raised ten years ago were coming up again.

She said more education was urgently needed, adding: ‘If you feel like you’re in an environment where you’re not supported – finding out that people might not support me, just because I’m different , it can be quite demoralizing.

“I’m disappointed because these were things we were talking about 10 years ago and are still coming back.

“I wish people had more cultural competence and understood that if someone is different from you, that doesn’t mean they are less of a human being.

“Having that empathy and acceptance, I think, will help a lot.”

The Scottish Government says it is “strongly committed” to supporting a “more diverse and inclusive workforce, but recognizes that structural and institutional barriers still exist.

A spokesperson said: “Work has been underway for some time to listen to and address staff concerns, including a new NHS ethnic minority forum.

“We are building an inclusive culture within the NHS and want to attract and retain talent from diverse backgrounds who fully reflect our society.

“Support is in place for anyone in the NHS who feels they have been treated unfairly.”

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