The British Dental Association has set out its commitment to tackle racism and discrimination at all levels in dentistry, following international outcry initiated by the death of George Floyd in May.
In response the Association has set out a major programme of work. It will engage with BAME dentists, as part of a research project to establish the views of those involved both in its ranks and the wider profession, to identify clearly those areas where racial disparities and racism exist within dentistry and on the basis of this develop an evidence-based action plan to address them.
Despite the demographic changes in the make-up of the dental profession, Black people are still significantly underrepresented, accounting for only one per cent of the GDC register. While other BAME groups are steadily increasing in number, all remain underrepresented at all levels within the profession’s leadership.
The BDA is currently undertaking a comprehensive review of its governance structures, with an emphasis on diversity and ensuring that it represents the profession fully at its heart. Lack of diversity in leadership is an issue across health care, with research describing ‘the snowy white peaks’ at the top of the NHS.
There is also evidence to suggest that BAME patients are less likely to attend the dentist. The BDA has said the reasons for this need to be clearly understood, so that all communities can have access to dental services on an equal footing. Public Health England analysis of the disparities in Covid-19 outcomes related to ethnicity and other factors have drawn renewed attention to health inequalities and dentist leaders have said these inequalities must be addressed in oral health as well.
BDA Chair Mick Armstrong said: “The dental profession is guided by the principle of acting in the best interests of patients, regardless of their background. Yet it is clear, as recent events have highlighted, that we still have a long way to go before everyone in our society is treated equally, and with dignity and respect. Recent events have forced us all to confront the reality of continued anti-Black racism. We stand in solidarity with those who have been peacefully demonstrating against anti-Black racism and say, unequivocally, that Black lives matter.
“Deeds not words is our mantra. We are resolved to do what we can to overcome persistent inequalities and discrimination, whether that is challenging the words and behaviours of colleagues, patients and officials, or reforming and transforming the world in which we all work.”