MEDICAL experts have voiced their outrage over an NHS training course that perpetuates racial stereotypes, with critics calling it “discriminatory” and “racist.”
The controversy surrounds a module within the course that suggests “Asian men” may avoid making eye contact during medical care because it is considered disrespectful in their culture, reported MailOnline.
A Bristol-based NHS medic shared a screenshot of this module on social media, leading to widespread criticism and debate.
The module poses the question of why an “Asian male” might refrain from making eye contact when receiving care. Possible answers include cultural norms, embarrassment, or a desire to conceal something.
The module ultimately validates the first option, asserting that “Asians are often discouraged from making eye contact as this may be seen as disrespectful.”
Critics have pointed out several flaws and issues with this training module. Some raised concerns about the broadness of the term “Asian,” emphasising that it encompasses a vast range of diverse cultures, from Afghanistan to South Korea.
Furthermore, medical professionals argued that the training oversimplifies a complex issue. They pointed out that various clinical factors, such as autism, could explain a patient’s hesitation to make eye contact.
By failing to consider these factors, the training course was criticised for perpetuating stereotypes and making generalisations about a diverse group of people.
Surgical trainee Ashuvini Mahendran, who initially shared the screenshot, expressed her frustration with the training, stating that it insinuates that all Asians adhere to the same cultural norms. She called it “mandatory discriminatory e-learning” and noted that it lacks nuance.
Other healthcare experts, like consultant psychiatrist Daniel Wilkes, also highlighted the ambiguity of the term “Asian.”
In addition to cultural insensitivity, the training was criticised for ignoring potential clinical explanations for a patient’s behaviour. Experts highlighted that it failed to consider neurodivergence as a possible reason for avoiding eye contact, and it implied that not making eye contact was a failing.
“‘The NHS Workforce Training and Education department are likely to have a remit in this space to try and help education and ensure such errors are rectified and amended accordingly,” Dr Paratha Kar, an NHS consultant in Portsmouth and ex-medical workforce race equality standard lead for NHS England, told MailOnline.
“That would be remit of national bodies to guide local systems in this space- and cut out variation- a stated aim of the NHS. You could be averting your eyes because of a background in autism or a disability, it has nothing to do with colour.”
The NHS trust responsible for providing this online training was not named, but NHS England clarified that it did not have regulatory authority over the materials produced by local NHS trusts. While NHS England stated that the advice was not sanctioned by them, they emphasised the importance of all NHS employers providing appropriate training to deliver the best possible service for patients.
“This advice is not sanctioned by NHS England. We expect all NHS employers to provide their staff with appropriate training so they can deliver the best possible service for patients,” a spokesperson said.
Former NHS England leaders in workforce racial equality called for more leadership from the organization to ensure that local trusts create more appropriate training materials. They argued that a national framework could help guide and standardise training content while allowing for local adaptations to meet specific needs.