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Statement on challenging racism and championing diversity

  • Update 16 July: We have invited the distinguished barrister and member of the House of Lords, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, to chair an independent review of diversity in the College’s professional leadership. Find out more.

The Black Lives Matter movement highlights the structural inequalities and systemic racism that continue to plague society. At the Royal College of Surgeons of England we have a responsibility to lead the way in eradicating racism and all forms of discrimination and inequality within surgery and the wider healthcare system.

The recent Public Health England report, Disparities in the Risk and Outcomes of COVID-19, highlighted the increased risk and disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities. We believe urgent action must be taken to address these disparities, and welcome the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s decision to conduct an inquiry into the impact of coronavirus on ethnic minorities. We urge the government to lay out actionable measures.

Surgery is not immune to these issues. We continue to hear of racism, sexism and other prejudices within surgery. The NHS Staff Survey for England 2020 reports that more than one in four staff experienced harassment, bullying or abuse in a 12 month period. This is simply not acceptable.

To fulfil our vision of advancing surgical care, we must eliminate all forms of prejudice. We have developed Unconscious Bias guidance and e-learning and promoted diversity through our Women in Surgery network and SAS Forum. But we know we have more to do. We need to ensure our own professional leadership and staff are representative of the community we serve and ensure the prejudice experienced by those in our surgical community is challenged at every turn.

Actions speak louder than words, so we make four commitments today.

We will:

  1. Review diversity across our professional leadership. We recognise that representative leadership best serves our members and patients.We will identify any barriers to this and address them. To this end we have invited the distinguished barrister and member of the House of Lords, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, to chair an independent review of diversity in the College’s professional leadership. Find out more.
  2. Establish a Diversity in Surgery working group to undertake policy and advocacy work. We will work in partnership with other medical royal colleges and our colleagues across the NHS on our shared aim of supporting fairness and diversity.
  3. Engage with and consult our membership on the topics of equality, diversity and inclusion, ensuring we listen to the views of all and are open to feedback and improvement. Whilst we may not always get it right, we will seek to constantly learn and do better.
  4. Audit the diversity of our staff, and review our internal policies and procedures.

These commitments will need further development, and timescales will be established for each of them. We commit to sharing progress with our members.

If you have any feedback or would like to get involved in this work, please contact the team.

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