Despite my mum being a retired NHS doctor of anaesthesia and my status as a PhD student with an undergraduate degree in biomedical sciences, until recently, I have struggled for some time to be properly investigated for heart issues and other concerns. It took a lot of persistence, reading medical papers, multiple consultations and even a warning of a possible complaint to the General Medical Council (GMC) – the public body where all doctors must be registered in order to legally practice medicine in the UK – but why should it have to be so hard?
Undoubtedly, there are unequal power dynamics in the doctor-patient relationship and general practitioners (GPs) act as important gatekeepers within our healthcare system. Outside of private care, an NHS GP makes a decision on whether medical care is needed and if a specialist should be consulted. A GP has to truly believe that you need further medical intervention, but this is not always a given even when it turns out to be necessary, and dealing with structural racism further complicates the picture.
Studies and documented stories show that Black womxn tend to have to ‘prove’ we are truly unwell to be believed by our doctors as our concerns are often trivialised. This experience is not unique to Black Brits and wealth is not a reliable shield from medical misogynoir. One story of Black female employees from the USA’s Center for Disease Control, who make sure to wear their work badges to doctors’ appointments to show that they are “educated and had health insurance”, is a succinct reminder of what it means to try to guard ourselves from discrimination against being Black and a womxn.