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RCEM establishes Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee to tackle inequalities in Emergency Medicine

1 October 2020

As part of our pledge to tackle inequalities and discrimination in Emergency Medicine, the College is establishing an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee. The Committee will focus on racial inequalities in the first instance but will go on to cover a wider remit in examining inequalities and discrimination against other social groups too.

We are delighted to announce that Dr Hodon Abdi and Dr David Chung have been officially appointed as Co-Chairs of the new Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee.

Dr Hodon Abdi is a Specialist Trainee at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, and Dr David Chung is an Emergency Medicine Consultant at Crosshouse University Hospital. Dr Chung previously served as Vice President of RCEM Scotland.

Dr Abdi said: “The College’s commitment to tackling inequalities in the speciality is empowering. The reality of the COVID19 pandemic brought into focus the long-standing disparities and widespread discrimination that exists in society. However, this pandemic has also demonstrated our capacity for swift and drastic changes in how we work within the NHS. It has demonstrated a unity of spirit and versatility in tackling these complex circumstances. I am therefore excited to see this committee carry on that spirit of innovation and inclusion in addressing inequities within the College, the speciality, and the NHS. I’m honoured to play a role in this journey and look forward to co-chairing the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee with Dr Chung. We want to ensure the College is supporting all our Members and Fellows towards an equity centred practice and are determined to see this committee push for sustainable and inclusive change.”

Dr Chung said: “I am honoured to be joining the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee as co-chair. This year has been a turning point for many as we watched racial inequalities manifest themselves in America and on our own doorstep. The coronavirus pandemic, namely the disparities we have witnessed in the risk and outcomes of the disease for Black, Asian, minority ethnic populations, has shined a light on something we already knew to be true; there is much work to be done in addressing and dismantling the structural inequalities that pervade our society and NHS. I am hopeful that this committee can go some way in beginning to tackle these issues and as a College, better represent our diverse membership for which we stand. I look forward to leading this work alongside Dr Abdi.”

The College is now looking to appoint members to the committee. You can find more information about how to apply here.

Between May-June 2020 RCEM ran a survey to better understand the experience of its Members and Fellows during the COVID-19 pandemic. A total of 1,167 responses were collected from Emergency Medicine clinicians across the UK. The survey included general questions about Covid-19, testing, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), how clinicians felt their Emergency Department was setup, and their mental health.

The survey revealed stark disparities in the experiences of Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff* during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic. 24.42% of Black, Asian and minority ethnic respondents reported that they experienced problems accessing testing during the first wave of the pandemic compared to 16.93% of White respondents. A considerably higher proportion of Black, Asian and minority ethnic respondents (43.36%) reported they lacked Personal Protective Equipment during clinical contact with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 compared to their White colleagues (28.35%).

Examining the disparities in access to PPE will be the first priority of the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee.

Dr Katherine Henderson, President of RCEM said “As a College, we know we must do better. We are proud of our diversity and are committed to tackling the inequalities that exist in our speciality. Establishing the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee is an important first step in this work. I look forward to working with the co-chairs of this committee to address the ways in which structural racism pervades our NHS and College”

“We were alarmed to see the disparities in access to testing and PPE highlighted by our COVID19 survey earlier this year. We have been calling for greater safety measures in Emergency Departments to protect our colleagues and a commitment from the Government to implement the recommendations from PHE’s review into ethnic minority disparities and risk.”

Gordon Miles, Chief Executive of RCEM said: “We recognise that sadly racism and inequality persist in society and the College and Emergency Medicine as a speciality are not immune. Earlier this year, we made an important pledge to tackle racism and discrimination. I firmly believe actions speak louder than words, which is why I am delighted we have appointed Dr Abdi and Dr Chung to lead our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee. The remit of this important new Committee is a broad one, so we are starting with an initial focus on race.

“As a College, we are absolutely committed to supporting our Black, Asian and minority ethnic membership and staff and we have started an important process of listening and learning from our colleagues. I am personally looking forward to working closely with the co-chairs and the committee to dismantle the structural forces that perpetuate racism and inequality in the College and the speciality.”

The College is pleased to welcome Dr Abdi and Dr Chung and wishes them every success in their new roles.

*We use the term ‘Black, Asian and minority ethnic’ for practical reasons. We acknowledge the limitations of this phrase and recognise the diverse and heterogeneous experiences of people across and within different ethnic groups.

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