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White doctors six times more likely to be offered a job than black applicants, research finds

WHITE doctors applying for medical posts in London are six times more likely to be offered a job than black applicants, with the figure jumping to 15 times at one NHS trust, new research has found.

The data from 12 NHS trusts in the capital, obtained through freedom of information requests, shows that white applicants were also four times more likely to be successful than Asian candidates or those from mixed ethnic backgrounds. 

At some trusts the disparity was even greater, with white doctors who applied for roles at Barts Health NHS Trust, one of the largest in England, 15 times more likely to be successful than black applicants. 

At St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, white applicants were 13 times more likely than black applicants to be offered the job.

Researcher Sheila Cunliffe, who produced the report published yesterday in the British Medical Journal, stressed that the disparity is not due to a shortage of applicants. 

She pointed to a period of recruitment at Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust between 2020-21 which saw none of the 418 black applicants offered positions. In contrast, 50 of the 317 white applicants who applied were offered the job.

Writing in the BMJ, Ms Cunliffe said: “It is time that NHS England and NHS Improvement and the Care Quality Commission stepped up and stopped tolerating racism in the NHS.”

She also called for hospitals to make ethnicity and recruitment data freely available, saying how she faced difficulties accessing the figures with some NHS trusts refusing to respond to her requests and others sending redacted documents. 

Although there has been a 21 per cent increase in the number of ethnic minority doctors since 2017, they are still under-represented in senior positions and report worse experiences at work than their white colleagues.

Doctors' union BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said he was deeply concerned by the the report's findings, describing them as "unacceptable." 

“While this study, published by BMJ, is new sadly its overall finding reinforces the mountain of existing unequivocal evidence of race discrimination affecting doctors throughout the NHS. 

"It reflects the living reality of thousands of doctors from ethnic minorities who experience disadvantage and  unequal opportunities to progress. 

"It is underpinned by BMA research showing that ethnic minority doctors face twice the rate of bullying and harassment and are less likely to raise concerns due to fear of recrimination or it affecting their careers."

 He added: "We call on the Trusts named in the study to review their processes, in light of this data. The government must act too - and press forward in making the changes needed to address the structural racism within the healthcare sector.”

Responding to Ms Cunliffe’s findings, a statement from the NHS in London said that organisations are “committed to ensuring fair and equal opportunities for all.

“After listening to the experiences of NHS staff, work is underway to improve recruitment and selection processes as well as the accessibility and visibility of new roles.”

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