Background National Health Service (NHS) doctors expect to be treated fairly and equally without discrimination and these rights are stated in the NHS Constitution. In our multi-purpose studies of UK medical graduates’ careers we have sometimes asked doctors about their perception of the NHS as an equal opportunities employer with regard to gender, ethnicity and disability. We aimed to report NHS doctors’ views on these issues between 1999 and 2005 and to compare them with the views of doctors surveyed in 2013, to establish whether recently surveyed doctors hold different views to their predecessors.
Methods All UK medical graduates of 1993, 1996, 1999, 2000, and 2002 were surveyed periodically between 1999 and 2005. The graduates of 2012 were surveyed in 2013. Questionnaires were distributed via email and post for self-completion. Questions about equal opportunities were one component of the surveys.
Results 12 surveys were conducted with an overall response rate of 66% (31,441/47,914). 89% of the house officers of 2013 agreed that the NHS was a good equal opportunities employer for women doctors, compared with 58% of house officers surveyed between 2000 and 2003 (p < 0.001). Women held a less positive view than men, although the gap narrowed between 2000–3 (when 53% of women and 67% of men rated the NHS as a good equal opportunities employer for women) and 2013 (women 88%, men 91%). 91% of house officers rated the NHS as a good equal opportunities employer for ethnic minority doctors in the survey of 2013, compared with 55% for house officers of 2000–2003 (p < 0.001). Doctors of non-white ethnicity held a less positive view than white doctors but the gap reduced between 2005 (white 66%, non-white 50%) and 2013 (white 93%, non-white 85%). Views on the NHS as an employer for doctors with disabilities were less clearly expressed, with many doctors expressing no opinion. Of those who expressed an opinion, only 26% of doctors in 2005 and lower percentages in earlier years, held positive views, compared with 56% of 2013 house officers who did so (p < 0.001).
Conclusion Our surveys are national and large scale. There was gradual improvement between 1999 and 2005 in doctors’ views of the NHS as an equal opportunities employer. House officers of 2013 were very much more positive than their counterparts in earlier years, though female and non-white doctors still held a less positive view of the NHS, in these respects, than male and white doctors.
- equal opportunities
- medical careers
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