Yet another report. And to be honest? Its got a huge massive "Meh" reaction from me as someone who is a BME. Or BAME. Or whatever acronym I am bunched into nowadays. I refer to the NHS WRES report. You can read it- probably the main bits are there on page 6 and 7. The reaction from leaders will be a collection of "makes for sober reading"; "we need to continue to progress" or even "reflect and learn". Or something glib along those lines. While the majority of those who are BME will look and smile wryly.
I have been a Consultant for 10 years- and have been hearing of this endeavour or schmaltz (deepening on your view) ever since. Just google "NHS and racism"- and you will find reports after reports...dating back to as long as you want to go to. (Roger Kline has been doing a lot of sterling work exposing this issue). Heck- here's one from 1999 for all its worth - a time when Sir Sam Everington was a mere Dr!
Lots of councils, meetings, power-points, conferences etc later...the report will tell you where we all are in 2019. You can rail against that by saying something like "progress is being made"- but here's some factoids for you.
The BME staff percentage is about 20%. Total number of CEO who are BME across ANY of the arms length body associated with the NHS? Zero. Thats not to say those in post are unqualified. But it's another thing to say not a single soul among those 20% in the NHS- or wider pool in society are unqualified either. Its isn't as if there isn't an effort- but subliminally, somewhere- there continues to be a block. My own trust? Efforts underway under our new management team- with lots of good work- but every single time I walk past the pictures of those who form the executive team? I smile- wryly.
To be frank, I don't know why the NHS bothers- it could just turn around and say "Sorry chaps- this ain't for you". It may make things easier- but then again, I suppose the world of political correctness stops that. The problem then is that it gives rise to tokenism; gives rise to belief that even 1 person getting something somewhere is an achievement beyond parallel.
And it percolates every layer- things are said no one would say to someone white; decisions are made which doesn't feel right- and I have examples littered - whether it be within organisations I have worked in and yes, even within NHS England. It's not the organisation- its the mindset- something about an inherent belief that a person of colour contributes less, knows less....take the example of Julia Hartley-Brewer. Recent radio interview suggesting she would like to be treated someone trained locally; comments about their grasp of English. Do I believe she is racist? Don't know- but she, like Piers Morgan are clever- they know exactly what they are doing; the xenophobia they subtly fuel- and live on the oxygen of publicity. Thats their livelihood- and they know the reactions it will bring makes their case for being public figures stronger. What they however do- is set that ingrained thought one step more. Why indeed hire someone who may..."know less?"
The other thing which makes me chuckle is when folks who have never gone through what BME folks do go with.."Are you sure? Not over reacting?". Recently I mentioned an email I got when doing the Libre battle from someone very high up in a CCG- the initial reactions were just that from a few. I had to share the content- just to prove my case. And that's the NHS for you.
Sadly, I haven't seen the NHS progress much on this issue- yes- there's more talk about it; more tokenism- and plenty of junior posts are made available. Top jobs? Still out of reach- have a look at most recent appointments across all leading organisations. Pick any board- anywhere- and if you believe your leaders should represent the workforce- another reminder that the % of BME staff in NHS is about 20%.
So to be honest? Many like me have stopped caring- and the counter mechanism to all that? More of the modern outlook. Which basically goes along the lines of "I know I am good at what I do...and I don't need to keep proving myself to you". So life goes on- you want to be seen by me, you want my help- come and ask. You don't? Fine by me too. And the veiled disdain is not just in management- it exists clinically too.
I will finish with a few examples of what I have faced- and this is me- someone confident, not shy of an opinion and happy to go toe-to-toe with anyone- whatever their position. Examples of being asked to apply elsewhere for a Registrar as "my type" was better suited to the Midlands; being called a "boy from a third world country" in a Consultant meeting with execs around; being shouted at by someone in communications while trying to do a clinic with words like "do you even understand English"...I could go on- with much more subtle references- but that gives the flavour.
Do you know what was common about those? All of those incidences were before I revealed my personality and style to the organisation or personnel concerned. A whiplash retort; aggression etc has further stopped any such occurrences- and I cant have a sadder indictment of a system that its only counter aggression which has stopped such behaviour. Why the sadness? Because the majority of BME I know? Don't want to resort to such behaviour or indeed can- so they bear the rest in silence. Case in point- has anything happened to any of those folks involved with me? Nope. Did anyone else stand up after this was relayed to them or the fact they were witnesses to the incidents? You must be kidding.
Another report will make no difference- its only fills yet another library space. The NHS is what it is- and we all carry on- as we were. My tip? If you want to change things? Don't insult or patronise us with tokenism. It's worse than actual complete ignorance.