It was late. We’d been to a conference.
We were starving. I pulled up outside a restaurant, my passenger nipped out; ‘… see if they have a table’…
‘… sorry, they were fully booked’.
I could see through the windows, the white table cloths, the twinkling candles and the empty chairs. Stay here…
I swept past the manicured Bay Trees in the terracotta pots and pushed through the doors.
‘D’you have a table for two?’
Yes sir, right here…
We parked and went back in. The waiter was gobsmacked to see me with the woman he had just refused. Nothing was said. We sat down, went through the card.
My colleague, was black. West Indian, born and bred here, educated here, medical school here and a public health doctor here.
Sadly, she died a few years ago.
That was the first time, in my white, suburban bubble, racial prejudice had touched my life.
I ran a business, I recruited talent, not skin colour. I was a councillor, a member of a health authority, what we now call BAME colleagues were abundant and valued. It never dawned on me they were leading two lives.
A life with a thin veneer of equality and the real-world life of queues, bus seats, shops, pubs with an ugly undercurrent that I had never seen… until the night of the restaurant.
We talked about that evening. She told of her life; early years, career, work and struggle. Because she was black. How it was still a struggle for her kids. Time and again, stopped in the street for no reason, other than they were black.
Later, at the OU, I met two delightful women, celebrating their Masters in healthcare. If I were a social demographer I’d call them Waitrose women. John Lewis people!
I asked them about their ambitions… they didn’t think they could get beyond middle management in the NHS… despite their new qualifications. Because?
Because they were black.
When the nation started noticing more BAME colleagues were dying we asked the reasonable question… why?
HMG needed to know if all BAME people were affected. There is an issue about which and what jobs are most at risk. We need to know if the clinical approach should be different and is the risk so high, black and ethnic colleagues need to be shielded and what the impact of that would be on rota, staffing and employment. We needed to dig into, why?
Public Health England were assigned the task… on tight deadlines.
By all accounts, they scraped-home. Delivering the final report on Sunday 31st May.
By Tuesday, when the report was published, it had become useless.
Read it. Frankly it is no more than a teenager could do, with a lap-top and Google.
It is a succession of graphs, numbers, unanswered question, flam-flam and gobbledygook.
In answer to the question why are more BAME colleagues dying of CV-19, the answer the report gives us… because they are BAME.
If this report were an item of foot-ware, it would be slippers. If it was an offensive weapon it would be a cotton-bud. If this was a serious academic study it would shame the professions from whence it came.
Except… it is none of those things. It is simply, incomplete. It’s a eunuch report. A vital bit missing. Between the Sunday deadline and the Tuesday publication, it was censored, a chapter removed and the report rejigged.
Chunks of commentary and insight from ethnic groups and organisations, telling us back people are poorer: poor housing, poor-pay, poor access to services; still subject to discrimination; front-line exposure in vital services, vulnerability… were cut out.
All the reasons that are inflammatory of public policy, an embarrassment for politicians of all flavours, that shame us and make it difficult to look in the mirror… were dumped.
PHE knows this. My message to PHE is; publish the missing pages. You owe it to every BAME person living in this country. A country defined by the White Cliffs of Dover.
Publish it PHE, or be damned. And, if you won’t, someone, send it to me and I will. If you made a contribution to the report and it was left out, send it to me and I’ll publish it.
It’s the least I can do.