‘Can I Have a White Doc’, Indian Surgeon Recounts Racism in UK NHS

Racist attacks in the UK’s NHS have increased from 589 in 2013 to 1,448 in 2018.

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Racist attacks in the UK’s NHS have increased from 589 in 2013 to 1,448 in 2018.

A research conducted on racism in UK’s National Health Services (NHS) by ITV News found that the number of racist attacks in the NHS increased from 589 in 2013 to 1,448 in 2018.

The University of Derby and Burton Trust recorded the biggest rise, from 194 to 439 in 2018 and Guys and St Thomas' in London went from zero to 109, the report said.

A senior surgeon of Indian origin based in the UK, Radhakrishnan Shanbag, who has worked in the NHS for more than 20 years.

Shanbhag recounted an instance of discrimination when he was prepping to perform a surgery on a female patient. When he had asked the patient if she had any questions regarding the surgery, she had asked, “Can I have a white doctor do the operation?”

He also shared his apprehensions with ITV regarding how the NHS would address the issue of racism.

“Part of the problem is I do not know how the organisation will support me, so all I had to say to the patient was, “I will see what I can do for you,” and I walked out,” Shanbhag said.

There have also been some offensive name-calling as well like “little China girl”, “P*** doctor”, and “black bitch”.


Systemic racism and under-representation of black and ethnic minorities have been among the problems faced by the NHS previously as well. In earlier studies, a total of 14% Black and Ethnic Minority (BME) members said that they would not feel raising concerns as compared to 8% of white doctors who said the same.

The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock told ITV, “The numbers are very shocking. I think it’s totally unacceptable that there should be any racist abuse anywhere especially for those who care for other in the NHS. Truth be told I have seen it myself…I think it’s horrific.”

He said that the trusts should manage cases on an individual basis.

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