Startling report shows the racism and Islamophobia faced by NHS staff

A new report shows some startling data on the level of discrimination, racism and Islamophobia faced by Muslim health workers in the NHS.

The ‘Excluded on the Frontline’ report found that Muslim Health Care Professionals (HCPs) experience bias at work from both colleagues and patients, which starts from medical school and continues throughout their careers.  

Almost 8 in 10 experienced negative assumptions related to their faith, while 7 in 10 reported negative stereotypes about Muslims either perceived or through comments heard in the workplace. Four in ten said they compromised practising their faith at work.

The report, conducted by The Grey Area and Muslim Doctors Association & Allied Health Professionals, also found that almost 4 in 10 received verbal abuse from colleagues around their faith and half experienced discrimination.  

Microaggressions target multiple and specific aspects of religious practice and beliefs, the report said.  

Based on the survey findings and recommendations from respondents, the report suggests a 12-point action plan to tackle Islamophobia and better empower Muslim staff in the NHS.

Lack of Muslims in leadership roles

Other key findings include:

  • Almost 9 in 10 Muslim healthcare workers do not know Muslims in leadership and management positions  
  • 2 in 3 cannot find any role models who they can relate to and give them confidence in career progression
  • Almost 8 in 10 are likely to feel anxious at work due to terrorism-related offences reported in the media causing a double jeopardy of anxiety around personal safety
  • Two-thirds do not feel comfortable raising concerns at work
  • Staggeringly, almost half think about leaving the profession

“The majority of Muslim HCPS have experienced systemic and interpersonal bias, prejudice and discrimination. Many are uncomfortable openly practising their religion which prevents them from showing up authentically,” the report said.

Quotes from respondents  

For faith-related challenges, one worker said: “I would never make it obvious I need to go to pray. I would avoid trying to put myself in a place where I might have to say no to a social outing because I did not want to disappoint others and did not want to make things worse for myself. It is always harder when wearing a scarf, you have to be more extroverted than one’s introverted nature might allow.”  

Another participant talked about experiencing “every kind of microaggression” that can be thought of. “I have a record of at least 20 racist incidents involving NHS staff alone. Many of these revolve around Ramadan where the supervisor was not happy I requested leave, then in another job the consultants were not happy I was taking time out to pray.”  

One person relayed how they left their speciality to practise Islam properly: ”Due to the racism in the surgical speciality I was in, I left and chose GP so that I can pray and perform my religious duties as suited to me.”


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