Outrage over 'discriminatory' NHS training course

Outrage as NHS training course claims ‘Asian men’ won’t give eye contact because it is ‘disrespectful’ in their culture

  • Medics criticised the training as unhelpful and ignoring conditions like autism
  • READ MORE: Squeeze a  comb to cope with pain, NHS trust tells mothers-to-be

Medics have slammed a ‘discriminatory’ and ‘racist’ NHS training course that states ‘Asians’ might not look medical staff in the eye as it is it considered disrespectful.

A Bristol-based NHS medic shared a screenshot of the module on X, formerly known as Twitter, which asks why an ‘Asian male’ may be reluctant to make eye contact when receiving care.

Possible answers include that his culture ‘does not encourage eye contact’, he is embarrassed or he has something to hide. 

Test results state that the first option is correct, with the answer stating that ‘Asians are often discouraged from making eye contact as this may be seen as disrespectful’.

In response to the post, some mocked the broadness of the term Asian, which they said could mean anyone from ‘Afghanistan to South Korea’.

Others criticised how the training ignored other clinical reasons for an unwillingness to make eye-contact, such as a patient potentially having autism. 

Medics have labelled this NHS training, held at an unnamed trust, as ‘discriminatory’ and ‘racist’

Surgical trainee Ashuvini Mahendran was one of those critical of the question claiming to teaches healthcare staff to generalise people from multiple backgrounds 

Other healthcare professionals, like consultant psychiatrist Daniel Wilkes, made a visual point about how broad the term ‘Asian’ is 

Medics were quick to criticise the training as making gross assumptions over a huge swath of people from multiple backgrounds. 

Ashuvini Mahendran, the NHS surgical trainee who posted the screenshot, wrote: ‘Happy mandatory discriminatory e-learning day’

She added :’It insinuates ALL Asians and it teaches healthcare professionals [to] generalise people from an entire continent who make up nearly 60 per cent of the world’s population, with no nuance.’

Dr Sanchit Turaga, an Oxford-based medic also described it as ‘casual racism’. 

Consultant psychiatrist Daniel Wilkes posted a map of the Asian continent, with the words: ”’Asian.” That narrows it down.’

READ MORE: Squeeze a hair comb to cope with pain, NHS trust tells mothers-to-be

Surrey and Sussex NHS Healthcare Trust’s maternity department posted information about the comb ‘labour hack’ to Instagram, pictured above. The maternity department suggests that holding a comb could help with the pain of labour contractions 

Other experts highlighted how the question and answers ignored potential clinically relevant reasons why a patient wasn’t making eye contact.

Professor Nicola Shelton, an expert in public health at University College London, wrote: ‘It also ignores neurodivergence as a possibility. And implies not holding eye contact is a failing.’

The trust which provided the online training was not named. 

NHS England told MailOnline it has ‘no remit’ over the training local trusts can produce. 

Former NHS England leaders in workforce racial equality said the organisation should show more leadership and help local trusts create more appropriate training.

Dr Paratha Kar, an NHS consultant in Portsmouth and ex-medical workforce race equality standard lead for NHS England, was one of them.

He said: ‘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.

‘That would be remit of national bodies to guide local systems in this space- and cut out variation- a stated aim of the NHS.’

Dr Kar labelled the question included in the training as ‘silly’ and ‘nonsense’.

‘You could be averting your eyes because of a background in autism or a disability, it has nothing to do with colour,’ he said.

‘What does “Asian” mean? It could anyone from Afghanistan to South Korea.

‘It doesn’t look like it’s been designed by people from that community.’ 

Professor Anton Emmanuel, an expert in colorectal and gastrointestinal health, and NHS England’s former head of workforce race equality standard, labelled the training ‘an example of excessive simplifying in the name of attempted cultural sensitivity’.

He told MailOnline that NHS England’s response to the issue was unsurprising.

‘By the governance code, trusts are independent of NHS England, so their response is predictable,’ he said.

‘My personal belief is that there is an important potential role for a national framework of what is included in training, which can then be tailored to local needs.’

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