Better for us all — recent learning on how the Royal College of General Practitioners can reduce racism

Amanda Howe, Martin Marshall, Valerie Vaughan-Dick

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The charitable mission of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) is to ‘encourage, foster and maintain the highest possible standards in general medical practice‘, with the implication that this is better for the patients we serve, and for the health of the nation. Within this, there are multiple levels of action typical of professional medical colleges: the curriculum and examination for speciality qualification, ongoing professional development opportunities, guidance on good practice and the latest evidence, membership support, advocacy on behalf of GPs, and many other domains. The College, with its more than 54 000 members, has a wonderfully diverse membership with many different backgrounds, working contexts, and special interests. As a crosscutting effort to ensure we are effectively improving our aim to be an inclusive and diverse organisation in all aspects, we have been updating our Equality Diversity and Inclusivity strategy. We want to embed best organisational practice on an ongoing basis, including when managing resources and staff, as well as responding to members’ needs. It was in this context that the RCGP had been working with members from Black, Asian, and other minority ethnic groups (‘BAME') to develop relevant actions, motivated in part by some findings from the President's Listening Exercise conducted during 2018-2019. Members from non-White ethnic backgrounds had raised issues of lack of representation, and the BMA special issue on Racism in Medicine in February 2020 1 had begun to trigger action across the sector when the horrific murder of George Floyd in May 2020 shocked the world into action and galvanised the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. An emergency motion was brought to RCGP Council in June 2020, asking for a clear commitment from the RCGP to the issues raised by the BLM movement, and to tackle structural racism across society, including within general practice and, indeed, with the implication to look at RCGP itself. Questions within RCGP had also been raised about why an apparently democratic electoral process was resulting in an atypical demographic profile in senior RCGP leadership, both in relation to the UK population per se, 2 and in even greater contrast with the current RCGP membership profile. This has led us to look in more depth at how to move strategic aims into effective action. So this article focuses on the question: what can and should a professional body do to address such issues? 3 There is a substantive body of literature derived both from academic studies and the development of good organisational practice, 4 which advocates for a combination of routine training, data monitoring, and encouraging a shift in organisational awareness and cultural practices. Other principles include active outreach and positive action programmes, which can be defined as 'a range of measures allowed under the Equality Act 2010 which can be lawfully taken to encourage and train people from under-represented groups to help them overcome disadvantages in competing with other applicants‘. 5 Strategies include organisations using relevant images and role models, and — to address and avoid more negative experiences — training in ‘speaking up', ‘unconscious bias', or ‘active bystander' approaches. 6 Finally, the principles of equity and justice need to be embraced and embedded in relevant organisational practices at every level.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberbjgpopen20X101150
Pages (from-to)1-3
Number of pages3
JournalBJGP Open
Issue number5
Early online date24 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Diversity
  • Equality
  • General Practice
  • Inclusivity
  • Primary Health Care

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