Statement of solidarity and support for BAME colleagues and communities

Publication date: 26 June 2020

The Royal College of General Practitioners believes that all forms of racism are abhorrent and must not be tolerated. The tragic death of George Floyd - adding to the disproportionate number of black people killed by police in the US - and the response and subsequent activism by the Black Lives Matter movement have made us all hold up a mirror to ourselves and recognise that we are all part of structural racism.

Now is the time to act and we all need to work together to change.

General practice is a diverse profession caring for diverse patient populations. Our diversity is our strength. The College stands in solidarity with our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) colleagues, and we are committed to addressing the systemic inequalities that affect them.

Whilst recent events have been difficult to witness and comprehend, they have presented us with a unique challenge the status quo once and for all - and this statement of solidarity must be accompanied by actions which are visible, practical, and long lasting.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also brought health inequalities and social injustice, particularly that experienced by BAME communities, into sharp focus.

Among our network of local Faculties are some of the best examples of diversity in general practice, but COVID-19 has hit these communities hard, including BAME staff; of the 12 GPs who have died, 11 were from BAME communities.

We are strongly supportive of the recommendations in the Fenton report, including greater support for people to report incidents of racism. We also want risk assessments to protect BAME staff working in practice for the duration of COVID-19, and will continue to call on governments across the UK to make this happen.

As a College, and as a profession, we all have a responsibility to identify discrimination within our own structures, to challenge it and to address it. We must ensure that those experiencing discrimination and those who speak up are guaranteed protection and support, without penalising their careers.

Many of our Black and Asian and Minority Ethnic members tell us that they have experienced – and continue to experience - both micro and macro racial aggressions in their working lives in the UK. Some manifestations might appear more subtle than others, but all are unjust, unfair, and serve only to perpetuate a society that treats some of its citizens better than others. 
The impact of institutional and interpersonal racism on BAME GPs - and how the 'nternalisation' of racism and the stress that this causes is associated with ill health such as hypertension, cardiac disease and mental ill health - must also be recognised. The emotional burden of dealing with racism is a shared responsibility.

That is why we will be using our platform and influence to bring about a tangible difference to the working lives of our BAME colleagues in general practice, right from the start of their medical training, and to improve health outcomes for our BAME patients.

The RCGP has a long-established Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Steering group that is co-chaired by Chair of Council Professor Martin Marshall and Chief Operating Officer Dr Valerie Vaughan-Dick.

We have also been working with a group of BAME GPs to address these issues since last year and both groups are informing our forthcoming BAME Action Plan. We have already put measures in place, including diversity and inclusion training for all College Officers, Council members, examiners and staff.

Recent events have highlighted the need to accelerate this work, that we need to lead more by example, and take further action that represents the core values of a fair society and maintains the trust of our GP colleagues, patients and communities.

This means:

  • Stepping up our work on differential attainment among medical graduates – a factor that is common to every medical speciality - with appropriate support systems for BAME GP trainees experiencing difficulties in training posts due to racial discrimination
  • Improving BAME representation on our College committees and ensuring that we have positive role models to actively encourage BAME representation in substantial leadership roles in all areas of our profession and within the College itself. Our BAME leaders need to be at the forefront of diversity and inclusion programmes as they have the experience to educate others
  • Provision of 'bystander training' both within the College and to empower our members so they know how to challenge racism and discrimination when they witness it in their practices, how to support colleagues who experience discrimination, and how to bring about the behavioural change necessary for the perpetrators of racism to 'unlearn' entrenched attitudes
  • Clear guidance for GP practices on fair recruitment and retention
  • Inspiring the next generation of GPs, starting with those from the most under-represented backgrounds, and identifying positive role models, actively sponsoring, supporting and recognising their representation
  • Ensuring the GP training curriculum reflects diversity, culture and inclusion
  • Further research in primary care to address health and workforce inequalities; and
  • Highlighting and addressing poorer outcomes for BAME patients, with an increased focus on diseases that predominantly affect BAME and marginalised patients.

We are committed to tackling discrimination, health inequalities and social injustice in all their forms, with our BAME members, for all our members and the patients we care for 

We acknowledge that the world needs to embrace change and the RCGP is committed to ensuring that it is part of that change. We recognise that we need to do better and to do more – we will not stop until we achieve this.

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633/7574/7575
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 53,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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