A Blackpool-based surgeon has spoken out publicly about the racial abuse he has suffered during his 27 years working in the NHS. As a result of the revelations, health secretary Matt Hancock has advised employers that they have a duty under the NHS constitution to protect staff from violence and abuse.
In an interview with ITV News, Mr Radhakrishna Shanbhag, a trauma and orthopaedic surgeon, reported his own experiences but insisted that his experiences were sadly far from isolated.
He recounted one incident in which a patient requested a white doctor instead of him. Mr Shanbhag said the episode had left him devastated and considering his position in the health service. He added that he had not directly refused the patient’s request as he had been unsure as to whether he would have had the support of his employer in doing so.
Mr Shanbhag's testimony followed an investigation by ITV which revealed that the number of racist attacks against staff in the NHS rose from 589 in 2013 to 1,448 in 2018.
In response to Mr Shanbhag’s interview, the health secretary initially stated that it was the responsibility of the NHS to ensure that instances of racial discrimination against staff were “properly managed individually”.
However, Mr Hancock has now written to all NHS staff and has publicly stated that doctors should simply answer ‘no’ if a patient requests a white doctor. He said doctors encountering racial discrimination should always be in a position where they felt confident that their mangers would support them, and he reminded employers that they have a duty under the NHS constitution to protect staff from violence and abuse.