NHS staff have been given a one-word answer to give to patients who demand to be treated by a “white” doctor – amid growing concern about racist abuse. The word is “no”, health secretary Matt Hancock told NHS organisations yesterday.
Mr Hancock’s advice came after an orthopaedic surgeon Radhakrishna Shanbhag gave a tearful interview to ITV News about the racism he had experienced. It followed a senior manager in Essex describing his local population as the most “homophobic and racist” in the country and a surge of racist incidents against staff in Lincolnshire.
Mr Shanbhag, based in Blackpool, said he only kept on working in the NHS to provide for his children. He spoke of being side-lined and ignored by patients and recalled an incident when a patient was allowed to book another surgeon.
In a letter circulated yesterday Mr Hancock said this kind of treatment of staff was “unacceptable.”
He said: “If a patient asks to be treated by a white doctor, the answer is ‘no’. Your management must and will always back you up. We are very proud that everyone in the UK is entitled to healthcare at the point of delivery, according to need not ability to pay. No one is entitled to choose the colour of the skin of the person giving that healthcare.”
He added: “If you face abuse, do not accept it. If you see a colleague being abused, do not ignore it. If you know of an employee facing this, do not stand for it. This government takes a zero-tolerance approach to dealing with racist abuse whenever it arises. Things should be no different in our NHS.”