Manchester Quakers hear about racism in the NHS
'Racism can be present in interpersonal interactions but it is not purely a matter of individual people holding negative attitudes to people of colour. It is built into the system.’
Friends in the north-west of England heard about racism in the NHS and the disproportionate impact of Covid on people of colour during the pandemic.
Speaking at a regional gathering, Anaaz Esmail, a retired professor of General Practice at the University of Manchester, shared her research showing that, in the first wave of Covid, ethnic minorities made up eighty-five per cent of all doctor Covid deaths, two-thirds of all NHS staff deaths, occupied thirty-five per cent of ICU beds, and black/Bangladeshi people had a three-to-four times higher mortality rate.
Around fifty people attended the event on ‘anti-racism and change from within’ on 4 March, hosted by the Racial Justice Steering Group of East Cheshire and Manchester and Warrington Area Meetings. Friends also watched Exposed, a film about racism in the NHS directed by Anandi Ramamurthy, from Central Manchester Meeting.
Ursula Sharma told the Friend that, ‘in the film, nurses and other NHS staff shared their experiences of racism, and some of them (Estephanie Dunn, Olanike Babalola, June Green) were present to relate their own experiences of racism and how it had frustrated them and held them back in their NHS careers’.
‘We also heard from Anandi herself and Anaaz Esmail… They answered our questions and related some of their personal stories. There were shocking accounts of how, when the pandemic began, black and brown staff on the frontline were not supplied with proper PPE, the result being that a disproportionate number of them died of Covid.’
She added: ‘All of the nurses on the panel had had frustrating experiences of being denied chances of promotion even though well qualified. We were better able to understand the ways in which institutional racism is embedded in a body we all admire and value. We were also made aware of the structural racism in British society – the underpinnings and societal inequalities which allow institutional racism to permeate organisations such as the NHS and the police. Racism can be present in interpersonal interactions but it is not purely a matter of individual people holding negative attitudes to people of colour. It is built into the system.’
The gathering on 4 March also included a report on the Leeds Friends’ Racial Justice Group. Ursula said: ‘Many Friends shared their own journeys towards an acknowledgement of racism, and it was refreshing to hear how their own Meetings had addressed the issue. Much useful work has been done… but much remains to be done.’
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