Positive pandemic workplace experiences 'not shared by BME doctors'

Black and minority ethnic (BME) doctors are less likely than their white counterparts to report improvements in workplace teamwork during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report published by the General Medical Council (GMC).

Most UK doctors, BME and white, say that, despite the pandemic’s huge impact on healthcare, there have been positive impacts, such as teamwork and knowledge and information sharing.

But positive experiences are not shared equally by BME doctors compared to white colleagues, backing calls for all doctors to receive better support in the workplace.

The findings are from a survey published as part of the GMC’s annual The state of medical education and practice in the UK report. It found that, despite the pressures caused by COVID-19, 89% of doctors experienced at least one positive change during the pandemic.

But BME doctors were less likely to share the positive experiences reported by many of their white counterparts:

  • Positive changes to teamworking between doctors were reported by 68% of white doctors, falling to 55% for BME doctors.
  • Positive change in the sharing of knowledge and experience across the medical profession was reported by 61% of white doctors compared to 46% of BME doctors.
  • Positive change in the speed at which workplace changes were made was reported by 57% of white doctors, compared to 38% of BME doctors.

Charlie Massey, the GMC’s chief executive, said: "This continues to be an incredibly challenging time for UK health services, and the hard work and commitment shown by healthcare professionals has been humbling. But it remains a concern that where there have been positive impacts on workplaces, BME doctors were less likely to experience them than their white colleagues.

"We know BME doctors too often lack the supportive and compassionate leadership that is required to thrive. Doctors of all grades, and from all backgrounds, need and deserve the same levels of support if they are to provide the best possible care for patients, in what will continue to be difficult months ahead."

A representative sample of more than 3,600 doctors completed the GMC-commissioned survey, which asked about experience of working during the first peak of the pandemic in the spring, as well as in 2020 more generally.

Coronavirus had a widespread impact on doctors’ working lives, with 81% experiencing significant changes to their work and 42% being redeployed.

Compared to a similar survey in 2019, a greater proportion of doctors reported being able to cope with their workload, and fewer reported being at high risk of burnout. This was due in part to elective procedures being postponed or cancelled during the first wave of the pandemic.

Charlie Massey added: "This has been a year like no other, but the challenging situation will last for some time yet and there are issues that healthcare leaders must address. Compassionate and supportive leadership is key, for patients as well as doctors, and this is the case now more than ever. We must all build on the flexible approach that has been a necessity this year."

The GMC’s 2020 The state of medical education and practice in the UK report is available online.

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Upcoming Events

Managing Deteriorating Conditions 2021

National Conference Centre Birmingham
19th April

Infection Prevention & Control Conference 2021

National Conference Centre Birmingham
20th - 21st April

BSG Annual Meeting 2021

SEC Glasgow, Glasgow, G3 8YW
19th - 21st May

EBME Expo 2021

Marshall Arena, Stadium MK, Milton Keynes Stadium Way West Milton Keynes MK1 1ST
30th June - 1st July

Central Sterilising Club 60th Anniversary Annual Scientific Meeting

Crowne Plaza, Bridge Foot, Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 6YR
4th - 5th April