Way Forward 2020 & Beyond
Message from the Chair Dr Vivienne Lyfar-Cissé
The NHS BME Network was launched in 2010 on the tripartite principles of hope, change and bottom up to address the institutional racism in the NHS which was laid bare by the outcome of the South East Coast Race Equality Review published in 2008.
It is a fact that for many years the NHS has been in denial about the racism that has adversely impacted the lives of its Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) staff and patients. What efforts were made to address this issue resulted in very little sustainable change and yet we were expected to be grateful for the “crumbs from the table”. We were not and were targeted by the ‘system’ as a result https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnyFwSxFsos.
More recent events concerning the outbreak of Covid-19; the killing of George Floyd in the United States and the actions of the Black Lives Matter movement have all served to highlight the years of racial injustice experienced by BME people in modern Britain.
We know to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven and there can be no doubt that the season for racial justice has finally arrived. As the beneficiaries of racial equality we must grab this opportunity with both hands to ensure that we play an active role in bringing about real and sustainable change this time round.
The Covid-19 pandemic, with its disproportionate impact on BME patients and BME NHS staff has undoubtedly brought to the fore the institutional racism in the NHS. A survey of BME medics and healthcare workers by ITV News in May 2020 reported that “systemic discrimination” on the frontline of the coronavirus outbreak may be a factor in the disproportionate number of colleagues who have died after contracting the virus.
On 2 June 2020 the government published a review by Public Health England (PHE) concerning the disparities in the risk and outcomes of Covid-19. The outcomes which show that the virus death risk is higher for ethnic minorities was already known. However, the published report made no recommendations whatsoever regarding how this urgent public health issue should be addressed. It now transpires that the government withheld a section of the report, including recommendations, which found that ‘racism, discrimination and social inequalities’ contributed to the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on people from BME communities. The government’s conduct in this regard is indefensible but comes as no surprise to us.
Together over the years we have championed the cause for racial equality in the NHS for both BME staff and BME patients and as we prepare to take this agenda forward we do sincerely hope that you will continue to stand with us.
Dr Vivienne Lyfar-Cissé
NHS BME Network