Widespread racism in the UK's health and social care sector is a significant threat to public health
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Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, United Kingdom
Sheffield Hallam University, United Kingdom
Manchester Metropolitan University, United Kingdom
Coventry University, United Kingdom
Publication date: 2023-04-27
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A1729
The recent Lancet’s Global Review says, “racism is a “profound” and “insidious” driver of health inequalities worldwide and poses a public health threat to millions of people”. The review confirms the findings of our study, where hundreds of ethnic minority participants working in frontline health and social care roles shared shocking stories of racism at work. Racism impacts ethnic minorities and migrant staff working in NHS at all levels. We aimed to explore and understand the stories and experiences of healthcare staff from ethnic minority background during the pandemic and previously in their working lives. We conducted a questionnaire survey and qualitative interviews with nurses, midwives and other healthcare staff. Three hundred-eight respondents completed an online survey, and 45 people participated in the narrative interviews. Our findings report that racism is prevalent in the health and social care sector and is usually unreported. In the case of reporting to authorities, 77.3% of respondents who complained about racism said they were not treated fairly. Incidents of racism were not individual and isolated; it was a culture that permeated daily practice. Our survey findings revealed 59% of the survey respondents had experienced racism during their working lives, making it difficult to do their job; thus, 36% had left a job. Most participants reported that racial discrimination had impacted their physical and mental health and their patients’ care. Our research underscores that the endemic culture of racism is a pertinent threat to public health in the UK; thus, it must be recognised and called out. There is a need to raise awareness and undertake interventions that recognise and address racial discrimination and stigma, institutional racism and structural racism as distinct driving forces of inequalities and inequity in the social determinants of health.
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