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Ministers urged to fight racism by patients against GPs and staff

by Nicola Merrifield
2 June 2021

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Local GP leaders have called on the Government to step up the fight against racism experienced by GPs and their staff.

Health ministers must ‘publicly and repeatedly’ tell patients they cannot decline care based on a clinician’s ethnicity, the UK LMCs conference urged last month.

The motion, which was carried unanimously, also called upon ministers to ‘commit to a zero tolerance approach’ to patient complaints about being challenged over racism.

Daily examples of racism towards GP staff should also be identified and publicised by ministers, said the motion.

The motion was put forward by Hull and East Yorkshire LMC, a part of Humberside LMC, which published a report – also last month – finding more than half of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) primary care staff have experienced racism at work.

During the debate, GPs said they should be able to remove abusive patients from their practices without fear of a resulting patient complaint leading to repercussions for staff.

GPs spoke of the ‘life-changing’ abuse inflicted by their patients and called for more support from regulators, who they said tended to take the patients’ side.

Dr Reshma Syed, a GP from Kent LMC, said she had herself been subjected to racism and told ‘why don’t you go back to where you came from…I want a proper doctor’.

She said: ‘Too often our GP receptionist staff, nursing staff and doctors are subjected to great hurls of verbal abuse and in some case physical abuse also.’

She added: ‘Our hands are tied, so much so that any attempt to correct the inexcusable behaviour results in complaints, which are all too often escalated to NHS England and the GMC.

‘This additional stress and mental torture could have been averted if we were empowered to take a stand.’

Dr Carter Singh, a GP and vice chair of Nottinghamshire LMC, called for regulators to deal with cases of GP abuse by providing ‘support and compassion’.

He said: ‘Historically they seem to have been kicked into the long grass, into a “patient is always right” attitude.’

Dr Singh added that while patients are at the heart of doctors’ work and should be protected, they are still ‘responsible and accountable for their actions’.

He added: ‘We need to start protecting ourselves and our colleagues from life-changing abuse…The victim-blaming must stop.’

The news comes as a ‘distressing’ report from Humberside LMC has found that more than half of BAME primary care staff have experienced racism at work coming from either patients or fellow colleagues.

Motion in full

HULL AND EAST YORKSHIRE: That conference calls on health ministers across the UK to: 

  • publicly and repeatedly deliver the message that no patient is entitled to refuse care based on a clinicians ethnicity 
  • identify and publicise the daily examples of racism that NHS colleagues are subjected to
  • commit to a zero tolerance approach to any patient complaints that arise from challenging racism.

Source: BMA

This story first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.