I had been afraid to go to the GP for months. Not because I thought I would be judged, but because I thought I wouldn't. Whenever I go to the GP, I am not treated equally and don’t receive the reviews others do. My medical journey hasn't been taken seriously for as long as I can remember and I would rather save my energy and disappointment each time I wasn’t provided with the help that I needed.
Racial inequality in healthcare can also be known as a form of direct discrimination. Direct discrimination is when someone is not treated equally as a result of a particular characteristic, for example, their race, sex, gender or even disability.
Many black people are being affected by racial bias within healthcare, whether that is working in the sector or just receiving services from it. Luckily, healthcare in the UK is free so we can access it quite easily. However, some countries find it more difficult as healthcare is privatised. Statistics show that many black people come from poor socio-economic backgrounds which makes it harder to afford a lot of healthcare services. This can affect the faith in the healthcare system for black people and whether they trust it enough to take care of them.
Further discrimination includes a lower priority of care provided to black people as compared to their white counterparts despite potentially suffering the same symptoms. Black people are less likely to visit the GP as a result of distrust and not having another black person to treat them (as they would feel more comfortable knowing that their issues will be listened to).
It is also evident that this is a sector in which black medical professionals are discriminated against and not taken seriously within their profession. A report from the RCP showed that white applicants had a 98% chance of being shortlisted, compared to BAME applicants who only had a 93% chance.
I struggle to go to the GP or seek medical attention due to my health being disregarded. In the past I have gone to the GP, genuinely concerned about how I was feeling for weeks, just to be told that there was nothing wrong with me and I was overthinking. Despite this, the pains would continue for weeks after my appointment and even up to now I still feel them sometimes. Each time I would go to the GP everything I was concerned about would just be rejected so eventually I grew tired and decided to ignore my medical issues. To me, it felt that there was no point of even bothering to have my voice heard about my pain anymore. Lately, I don’t take my medical problems as seriously so they begin to get increasingly worse, such as the sprained wrist I have had for quite a while now.
However, I don’t think what I am doing is the right thing to do. I should certainly continue to voice my concern for my health and make sure that it is heard to get the necessary attention and care needed. Regardless, I find this exhausting and I am sure other black people will feel the same way. Therefore, to my fellow black people: please do not be afraid to seek medical help. You must maintain your good health and ensure you are regularly checked. Your health is just as important as everyone else’s therefore you must continue to fight for its recognition even though you are tired. We cannot continue to ignore our problems in hope that they will subside.
My advice to those who are not black is to encourage your black friends and family to visit their GPs as regularly as they can. Please make sure that with any of the medical issues that they are facing - physical, mental or other - they are not suffering alone. It can get to a point where we black people feel so alone that we don’t ask for help, thus please check up on the physical and mental health of your black family and friends - they are not superhuman because they don’t ask for your help; understand that they feel pain just as you do.
Lastly, call out medical discrimination when you see it. Not enough people are talking about the medical discrimination that black people face regularly, and that is mainly because they tend to cover it up in such a sly way. However, if you have caught onto this discrimination, you should definitely call it out so that more people can be aware of what this discrimination looks like.
Remember that medical discrimination is still as prevalent in 2021 so it is imperative that it is called out and spoken about. Just as I mentioned in a previous article of my “Being Black” series, there is now a stigma around black people having to be strong or even seen as superhuman which is not the case. We cannot allow ourselves to think that we are anything other than human. We all see, hear and feel just as much as each other. You are valid.