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‘Systematic racism’ at London-based NHS unit prompts fresh calls to address discrimination

EVIDENCE of “systematic racism” and a “psychologically unsafe” environment has been found at an NHS unit in London, sparking fresh concerns over discrimination in the health service. 

Leaked information reported by the Guardian from an internal investigation at the Colindale site of the NHS Blood & Transplant (NHSBT) division in north London found that “recruitment is haphazard, based on race and class and whether a person’s ‘face fits’.” 

The Globis Mediation Group report was prompted by a number of discrimination complaints from black and minority-ethnic (BAME) staff. 

The investigation focused particularly on the manufacturing section, where 80 per cent of the 68 members of staff are BAME.

It found that a member of staff was told he could not join a particular team because he was a Muslim, while BAME employees alleged that they were repeatedly rejected for jobs they felt they should have got. On the other hand, white candidates were often offered positions despite having less experience and qualifications.

Last week the British Medical Association (BMA) union said that “systematic and cultural problems” in the NHS could be contributing to the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on BAME staff, who make up 60 per cent of deaths among healthcare workers. 

This is despite BAME employees only comprising about 20 per cent of the NHS workforce in England. 

Recent research by the BMA has found that BAME doctors are more than twice as likely to feel under pressure to see patients without proper protective wear as their white colleagues.

As part of the Globis probe, the Muslim Council of Britain made a recommendation that stated: “With high levels of deaths of BAME healthcare workers and extensive research showing evidence and feelings of structural racism and discrimination in the NHS, Public Health England should consider exploring this in more detail and looking into specific measures to tackle the culture of discrimination and racism.”

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