Patients not entitled to demand ‘a white member of staff’, says Hancock

He sends a clear message, “If you face abuse, do not accept it”.

Matt Bodell
6 November 2019
Hospital Admissions Unit

The number of reported racially motivated attacks against health workers has risen by 145%.

Racial abuse targeted at any member of NHS staff is “completely unacceptable” and will not be tolerated, says Matt Hancock today in a letter to health service staff.


The letter comes after thousands of health service staff shared their experiences of racism at work on social media following an emotional ITV interview last week. 

During the interview Mr Radhakrishna Shanbhag, a Consultant Surgeon at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation trust, revealed how he was made to feel “worthless” by patients demanding a “white doctor” to undertake their operation.

Figures show the number of reported racially motivated attacks against NHS staff increased from 589 in 2013 to 1448 last year – an increase of 145%.

It is thought many racially motivated attacks go unreported.


‘If you face abuse, do not accept it’.

Responding to reports that staff are increasingly the subject of racist abuse, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care writes; “I want to send a clear message from the very top of our health and care system, with the strong support of the entire national leadership of the NHS; this sort of abuse is unacceptable and we will not tolerate it”.

Sending a clear message, he adds; “If you face abuse, do not accept it”.

“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 proud that everyone in the UK is entitled to healthcare at point of delivery, according to need not ability pay. No-one is entitled to choose the colour of the skin of the person giving that healthcare”.


The letter then calls upon individual NHS Trusts to ensure “zero-tolerance” policies are put into place to tackle the issue.

North Bristol NHS Trust recently announced their ‘Red Card to Racism’ campaign which could see patients have their treatment withdrawn under a new zero-tolerance policy.

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