Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The NHS, the Met, and Race Targets

I noted yesterday the under-representation of Native Brits in the NHS.

In a speech to the TUC in September 2003, Trevor Phillips, chair of the Commission For Racial Equality, thought this was A Good Thing for which the natives should be grateful.

"So, colleagues, I ask you next time you add 50,000 to your circulation with a story about so-called health tourists please mention the 45,000 foreign nurses working in NHS hospitals today without whom none of us black, brown, white, citizen or refugee would enjoy the healthcare we take for granted now.

Let me make one point, that is the National Health Service, the most British of institutions, was launched by a Welshman, built by Irish labour, sustained by Caribbean nurses and now held together by Indian and other foreign doctors with Filipino nurses, and Somali cleaners. That is modern Britain."

His remarks were applauded by columnists like the Guardian's Jackie Ashley.

Strangely the converse doesn't apply if the natives are over-represented. No-one to my knowledge has made a speech pointing out with pride that if an Asian girl is shot for her mobile phone, the crime is likely to be investigated by dedicated Native Brits, serving all communities without fear or favour.

Far from it. Too many crackers on the beat is apparently A Bad Thing. While a white patient who demands care by white medical staff is condemned by all, and loses entitlement to NHS care, it's quite acceptable to argue that black Londoners need black police.

As the Metropolitan Police Authority (chairman Lord Harris - see here and here) put it : "Of greater concern to the Authority is the recruitment of black and ethnic minority police officers. While the Home Office statistics released today indicate a positive increase in the percentage of VEM (Visible Ethnic Minorities - since half of Eastern Europe arrived in London this is now the preferred PC term for black and Asian people) recruits to the Met in the year between April 2001 and 2002 – a 23% increase for that year, representing 4.9% of the workforce total – we know from current figures that we still have a long way to go to achieve the 25% target set for completion by 2009."

I still can't work out why this is so important. Does the colour of a policemen's skin matter, as long as he does his job well ?

The only real 'reasoning' is in the Home Office targets report, one of many.

"The employment targets are wide-ranging and cover recruitment,
retention, career progression and the senior officer level. They will
help ensure that each service is truly reflective of the communities
they serve, and thereby better able to serve them and meet their
needs and priorities.

If this applies to the police, why doesn't it apply to the NHS ? Or, come to that, to soccer sides ? If Jack Straw is right, the Baggies would have been able to meet their fans needs better without the Three Degrees, and Bradford City should have swapped the great Cec Podd and Joe Cooke for a Patel and a Hussein.

Why aren't Trust managers and executives looking forward nervously to their next Whitehall meeting, when they have to explain that only 60% of their staff are Native Brits as against a target of 90% ?

I don't really need to answer that, do I ? When white liberals are involved, the ratchet will only ever work one way.

Wouldn't it be nice to live in a world where even Metropolitan Police Officers were judged solely on the content of their character, just as the colour of your doctor's skin is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes ?

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