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RCOG launches Race Equality Taskforce

News 15 July 2020

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has today launched a Race Equality Taskforce to better understand and tackle racial disparities in women’s healthcare and racism within the obstetric and gynaecology workforce.


Addressing health inequalities is a key priority area for RCOG President Dr Edward Morris, who is co-chairing the Taskforce alongside Dr Ranee Thakar, Vice President of the RCOG, and Dr Christine Ekechi, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist and RCOG Spokesperson for Racial Equality.

The Taskforce builds on the learnings from our International Women’s Day event on 6 March 2020– ‘We need to talk about race’ – and will focus on reducing adverse health outcomes experienced by Black, Asian and minority ethnic women and implicit racial bias experienced by healthcare professionals.

Statistics show, for example, that black women are five times more likely to die in pregnancy, childbirth or in the six-month postpartum period compared with White women and the risk for Asian women is twice as high.

During the pandemic, 55% of pregnant women admitted to hospital with coronavirus were from a Black, Asian or other minority ethnic background despite the fact 13% of the UK population identify themselves as BAME.

It is also clear that there is a significant gap in understanding the factors that result in a higher risk of morbidity and mortality for Black, Asian and other ethnic minority women in the UK.

The Taskforce will collaborate with groups across healthcare and government as well as individual women to address these concerning trends and will ensure that the work of the RCOG is reflective of its anti-racist agenda.

Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said:

“Racial inequalities in women’s healthcare is unacceptable and it is my priority as President of our College and leader of the obstetrics and gynaecology workforce, to ensure that this serious issue is better understood and tackled.

“The creation of a Taskforce is one important step towards eradicating health disparities in women’s healthcare and in the medical workforce in the UK. The Taskforce aims to highlight where health disparities exist, improve our understanding of the causes behind inequalities and collaborate with government to create meaningful solutions to improve healthcare experiences and outcomes for all ethnic minority women. We will also be listening to and addressing the concerns expressed by our Fellows, Members and Trainees about the prejudice that they have experienced throughout their careers.

“The time to act is now, and the College’s Taskforce intends to do just that.”

Dr Ranee Thakar, Senior Vice President of the RCOG, said:

“Our sell-out International Women’s Day event in March highlighted that many ethnic minority women are unable to access the same standard of healthcare as other women due to their race. All women, irrespective of location, age, or ethnicity, should be able to access the same high-quality care.

“I am delighted that women’s voices will be represented on the Taskforce through our Women’s Network. It is only by listening to the experiences of individual women and clinicians, and by working collaboratively through the Taskforce, that we will turn this ambition into reality.”

Dr Christine Ekechi, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Imperial Healthcare and RCOG Spokesperson for Racial Equality, said:

“Behind every shocking statistic is an individual woman who has died or suffered a poor health outcome. We have a duty to ensure that no woman or her family suffers unnecessarily and that we address racial inequality, where it exists. The solutions to preventing unnecessary harm require a committed collaborative effort between clinicians, Government and women to ensure that the gap in health outcomes is eradicated.

“This requires a multi-focused approach that addresses the inequalities in training and opportunities experienced by some of our members and the implicit biases present within our specialty. All members of the RCOG should feel enabled and supported to undertake rewarding careers in Obstetrics & Gynaecology and feel fully informed to provide care that is culturally safe.

“The launch of the Race Equality Taskforce at the RCOG sends a clear and brave message to our members and the women that we serve, of our strong commitment to equality in outcomes for all Obstetricians & Gynaecologists in the UK and for the health of each and every woman.

“We have now moved from conversation to action and I am confident that with the launch of this taskforce, our tangible initiatives to tackle inequalities in women’s health will ultimately save lives and demonstrate our continued leadership in this issue.”

Ends

Notes to editors

For media enquiries, please contact the RCOG press office on 020 7045 6773 or email pressoffice@rcog.org.uk

Read the RCOG's policy position statement (PDF) on health disparities in women’s healthcare.

The Race Equality Taskforce exists to:

  • Ensure the work of the RCOG is fully reflective of its stance on racial equality
  • Understand and address how racism affects Fellows, Members and Trainees of the RCOG
  • Improve awareness and training to combat racism within the health service
  • Improve undergraduate and postgraduate education in identifying and reducing racism and unconscious bias in the workforce
  • Tackle the contributing factors which have led to poorer patient outcomes for Black, Asian, and minority ethnic women
  • Consider the role that medical research can play in addressing disparities in outcomes for Black, Asian, and minority ethnic women.
  • Applications will be open soon for Member, Fellow and trainee representatives.