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NHS accused of ethnic discrimination following senior doctors’ pay gap

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Recent research published by the British Medical Journal suggests that senior doctors from black or minority ethnic (‘BME’) backgrounds earn approximately 4.9% (or £5,000) less in mean basic pay than their colleagues from a white ethnic background within the NHS.

The findings of the study also demonstrate that:

  • BME doctors feel discriminated against in relation to clinical excellence awards, interviews and promotions which is perhaps supported by the fact that only 7% of senior managers in the NHS are from a BME origin; and
  • a high number of BME doctors (when compared to their colleagues from a white ethnic background) work in unpopular specialities within the NHS, such as psychiatry or rehab medicine, and in remote districts.

The Director of Research and Chief Economist at the Nuffield Trust thinktank, John Appleby, has questioned whether the pay gap could be due to consultants working in the NHS from a white ethnic background typically being older and more experienced than their BME colleagues. However the disparity between salaries is too large to go unnoticed and requires further investigation. The BMA chair, Dr. Chaand Nagpaul, has insisted that the government and NHS address this suspected disparity and, in response, the NHS has commissioned its own study and confirmed its intentions to tackle the issue.  It remains to be seen how its will achieve this. In the meantime, an ongoing inquiry into the gender pay gap within the NHS should also help identify the reasons behind the gap and workable solutions for reducing it.