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Overlooking the Incredible Contributions of BAME Staff in the NHS

Overlooking the Incredible Contributions of BAME Staff in the NHS

Categories: Latest News

Tuesday April 14 2020

From its very conception, the NHS has been relying on the continuous contribution and services of BAME nurses, doctors, and auxiliary staff. However, recent media snapshots of the NHS have showcased a perception of a majority white-skinned workforce battling on the frontline against COVID-19, thus seemingly neglecting the contributions of the 44.3% of the NHS medical staff who are foreign-born or from a BAME background.

BAME staff have a long and significant history of working for the NHS, which began as early as 1949 when the health and labour ministries launched recruitment campaigns to fill the deficiencies of the health service. As a result, thousands of migrant nurses arrived in Britain and were dispersed to hospitals all over the UK. The majority of these nurses came from the Caribbean, Malaysia, Mauritius, as well as other parts of the world.

Furthermore, in 1963, the Conservative Health Minister, Enoch Powell, who later drove the call for stricter controls on migration, propelled a campaign to recruit trained doctors from abroad to fill the labour deficiencies brought about by NHS expansion. This call was heeded by an estimated 18,000 doctors from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) – countries with large Muslim populaces.

At the time, these migrant doctors were applauded by Powell, who declared that they “provide a useful and substantial reinforcement of the staffing of our hospitals and who are an advertisement to the world of British medicine and British hospitals”. The UK further benefited from the experience that these incoming doctors had acquired within health institutes in their nations of origin, thus increasing British medical expertise and capability. 

By 1971, 31 per cent of all doctors working in the NHS in England were born and qualified abroad. Doctors from abroad remained fundamental to NHS staffing throughout the late twentieth century, filling vacancies in areas and specialities that were unpopular with doctors trained in the UK. By 1997, 44 per cent of 7,229 newly recruited doctors (under full registration) had received their underlying medical training abroad.

As of 2018, the NHS remained reliant on health professionals drawn from countries with large Muslim populations. 28.8% of all doctors working in the NHS were Asian or Asian British (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, or of Middle Eastern origin), according to Gov UK statistics in 2018. As such, Asian and Asian British individuals are the largest minority group in medical roles.

As of March 2019, NHS workforce statistics reveal that BAME staff constitute a significant 44.3% of all medical roles, compared to around 15 per cent of the public who stated they are from a BAME background in the 2011 census. BAME staff made up an incredible 58.6% of all senior doctors, with Asians constituting the majority at 40.6%.

More recently, as of September 2019, it was established that 42,202 Muslims were employed and utilised in NHS trusts and clinical commissioning groups in England, with Muslims constituting 6% of the 712,073 staff who revealed a religious belief. Around 31% (12,966) of the 42,202 Muslim staff were employed in specialist positions, such as doctors, contrasted with a general NHS rate of 10%. Meanwhile, Muslim doctors formed over 21% of the 60,178 doctors who declared a religious belief. For a community that makes up under 5% of the national populace, Muslims are unquestionably over-represented within specialist occupations in the NHS.

This undoubtedly indicates that a remarkable number of BAME medical staff are at the forefront of trying to tackle the COVID-19 crisis with 23 known to have died so far in trying to save lives. Though the contributions of those who have passed have been held up as exemplars, the majority of the recent media depictions seem to imply a majority white NHS staff demographic. Moreover, studies have demonstrated that white doctors are paid 4.9 per cent more than their BAME counterparts. Such findings indicate that BAME contributions to the NHS are not being fully acknowledged.

The NHS as it currently stands is the most important and relied upon national treasure in our society. From historical contributions in building the service, to the current workforce battling COVID-19 at the frontline, BAME staff continue to play an essential role in the health of our nation. This contribution must be fully acknowledged, and MEND would like to reiterate the nation’s appreciation for the tremendous sacrifices of all NHS staff and volunteers, not only in these difficult times, but also the sacrifices they make in their everyday work.


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