NHS patients are to be threatened with a withdrawal of medical treatment for asking to see a white doctor.
This is a result of North Bristol NHS Trust’s ‘Red Card to Racism’ campaign officially launched today (Monday, November 4).
The Trust states on its website that the new policy is aimed to ‘protect all staff from any discrimination’ and follows reports that ‘incidents of racism have increased over the past year so the hospital will be enforcing its zero tolerance policy against abusive behaviour’.
Whilst this abusive behaviour could entail violence or severe verbal threats, it was highlighted in an interview on Radio 5 Live that the system of a final warning, followed by a withdrawal of treatment, could apply to a patient refusing to be seen by, for example, an Asian doctor.
Such patients would first be written to – a sports-style disciplinary yellow card – and then told to seek treatment at another hospital, which may be many miles away, should the behaviour be repeated.
The question was asked whether for example a Muslim patient requesting only to be seen by a Muslim doctor fell within the same guidelines – and the answer was no.
Naturally nobody is advocating openly racist or abusive behaviour of any kind either in public or private places.
But there are fundamental issues at stake here that shouldn’t be ignored lightly.
Everyone ‘ordinarily resident’ within the United Kingdom is entitled to free hospital treatment, plus certain exemptions.
That health care is paid for by general taxation – in other words by the patients themselves.
There has never been any eligibility based on the attitudes or political views of patients. We have never, thank god, had to pass a tick box of politically correct statements to get an appointment at a clinic or qualify for an operation.
I can’t foresee a circumstance in which I would ask to see a white doctor – or a black doctor, for that matter – but I respect that others see it differently.
Here’s a real-life example. When my brother and I were researching residential and nursing home care for my now late father, we visited one home that had many care staff from the Philippines. In his confused state, we thought that he needed to be surrounded by people he was more familiar with. Not racist, merely the need to make his life as ‘normal’ as possible.
The Trust’s statement does speak of the policy applying to those with ‘mental capacity’ but there are many patients who either have mental health issues or are beginning to suffer from dementia.
By the very nature of being referred to or admitted into hospital, patients can be very vulnerable. They may even be irrational. But they should still retain their right to be treated alongside other people on account of their eligibility.
What if someone has just encountered a severe problem with either a black or a white doctor, a man or a woman. Does it really matter what their reason is for asking to be seen by someone they are more comfortable with?
Another example is how political correctness is championed on one hand and ignored on the other. We are fed a continual diatribe of negative comment about Islamic fundamentalists to tie in with Britain’s foreign policy. So is it not fair enough that someone taking this on board would be upset by being seen by a Muslim doctor?
Naturally the answer could very easily be that there is no other person available, so it is the patient’s choice whether to be treated or otherwise.
All this leads me to argue that all such issues must be dealt with on a case-by-case basis and not according to a blanket anti-racist dogma.
Where is this heading? Will we soon be prohibited from entering other public places unless we conform to certain rules?
Free speech includes irrational, illness-driven, speech. We have long since had the machinery to deal with real criminal offences such as physical assaults. But to withdraw treatment from those who merely express their own opinions is, ironically, a form of discrimination.
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