Is there racism in the NHS?
I think most people who have not experienced racism would answer no to this question. In the UK inequality is very subtle in comparison to the US where we hear and see a lot of racist incidents. To many people, racism is seen as conscious hate, when in fact it presents in many forms. In the UK there are forms of conscious hate but more destructive is the systemic racism and unconscious biases that overwhelmingly impact black people and other ethnic minorities. In this article I am going to be discussing my own personal experiences as a nurse in the NHS, as a patient and the undeniable statics that prove the disproportionate deaths of non-white staff within the National Health Service.
Being a black nurse in the NHS
I have been a paediatric nurse in the NHS for over six years now, and I studied for three years. Over my nine years working for the NHS I have felt quite privileged in the fact that I did not feel as though I had been directly discriminated against, however I have felt as though some opportunities have passed by and I have not been considered for them despite being qualified for such a long time. I have seen white nurses who have been qualified half the time I have, put on courses, given the opportunity to work in new areas and gain experience. A lot of people may say you need to make your own opportunities, but in the NHS, it does not always work like that. I have asked to be put on many courses and denied the chance due to ‘funding’ but then see others going on different courses. This alone Is a hard pill to swallow as I do not like to do think this is to do with discrimination, but I cannot see any other reason.
Have I experienced racism as a patient?
I can say no I have not experienced racism that I’m aware of in my own experience as a patient in the NHS. Am I just lucky? Yes, I believe I am; as a health care professional, I think I am treated differently to a lot of other people, as I have knowledge in this area. I have in fact received amazing care each time I have had to visit the hospital, either for myself or with my children. I usually go to the hospital I work at also, which has its perks.
Covid-19 outbreak reveals the true deprivation and vulnerability of Black and minority ethnicity.
We were told Covid-19 does not discriminate – and all that was proved is that it does not have to because we live in a system that does it for us. We see this in the legal system, healthcare, education and pretty much every other system in the UK. The Coronavirus was unprecedented. However what was even more shocking was the way in which the virus would strike the lower class and most vulnerable hardest. Black people are 1.9% more likely to perish from Covid-19 compared to white people. The cause of this disparity still isn’t clear but the Government must find answers and fast, especially as we are anticipating a second wave this coming Winter.
As the outbreak of the coronavirus intensified, there was a huge amount of critic regarding the representation of BAME staff in the media, this criticism grew larger as the deaths of front-line staff showed the real face of the NHS. Figures proved that whilst BAME people make up around 14% of the population in the UK, we make up a massive 44% of NHS doctors and 24% of nurses. However, we make up 70% of front-line worker deaths, and we also make up 34% percent of the critically unwell patients.
So what happens now?
I think overall, no matter what experiences I’ve had in the NHS, it is undeniable to say that racism does not exist in the NHS. The figures speak for themselves in a number of different areas. This isn’t new; black women are five times more likely to die in childbirth compared to white women; but due to the public scrunity of Covid-19, this issue came out of the woodworks. Being a proud member of the NHS, it is the duty of all of us to fight for the change we need. This is for our loved ones, family, friends, children. The only way forward is to come together as a people. I will continue to raise awareness and promote change for a better National Health service. You could sign a petition or start an uncomfortable conversation, you may think it won’t make a difference, but even if you only open one person’s mind, that’s one person closer to making a better future for our children.
Written by Olympia Amoo (July 2020)