A comprehensive document of protest “Addressing the University of Nottingham's anti-racism policies and investigative practice” after an incident of racial abuse at the Royal Derby Hospital on Tuesday 10 March was sent to Mrs Amanda Collett and Prof Pam Hagan on 15 September 2020. Professors Gill Doody, Brigitte Scammell and John Atherton would like to respond on behalf of the University of Nottingham Medical School.
First and foremost, we would like to issue a formal apology on behalf of the Medical School for the incident of racial abuse which occurred at the Royal Derby Hospital on Tuesday 10th March 2020. We would like to apologise, not only to the 24 medical students and the NHS clinical consultant present at the time, but also to all medical students, non-medical students, staff and members of our BAME community who have been affected by, or who have become aware of this heinous event.
The Medical School operates a zero tolerance policy on racism and as part of this response we have chosen to release, as an appendix, the full report of the investigation of this incident compiled by Mr David Walton, University Conduct and Investigation Manager (Appendix 1). We hope that this will demonstrate the extensive work that was done during our investigation and the co-operative approach that was taken between the University and the police in attempting to identify the offender.
We are deeply sorry, that despite these efforts, we have not been able to identify the perpetrator of this crime. We do know that only one person committed this act. It is sobering to realise the tremendous impact and distress that this individual has caused by their action to so many of our students, colleagues and specifically to members of the BAME community in Nottingham.
Hopefully, in the responses we provide to your expectations below, you will feel reassured, as we do, that all available avenues have been explored and that the Medical School is committed to further action to ensure that an incident of this nature cannot and will not recur.
Addressing your expectations
The Medical School has released with this document an appendix which contains a comprehensive report into the investigation of this incident compiled by Mr David Walton. The School has no compunction whatsoever in condemning this incident. We reaffirm our zero tolerance approach to any racist behaviour or any behaviour that discriminates against any of the protected characteristics, as defined by the Equality Act.
Whilst we recognise that racial prejudice and discrimination do unfortunately persist in many areas of life today, we are clear that we will not tolerate those who hold such beliefs in our community, be they staff or students. The Medical School shares your values, we too aim to strive towards building a society that welcomes equality and celebrates diversity.
The School already has a longstanding mechanism for reporting concerns regarding any of our students. A concern form is available on the School website and anyone can complete this to inform us urgently of any concerns they have regarding any of our students. This works well, we receive forms from students, staff and even members of the public. Our Directors of Professionalism triage these forms and develop an initial action plan for each case. We are informed immediately if the concern is serious and it is necessary to remove the student from their clinical placement, whilst an investigation is conducted. Centrally, the University EDI team also have an e-mail address, Harassment@nottingham.ac.uk, where anyone may report any incident of racist behaviour involving any students or staff.
In the case of the incident in Derby, Prof Doody became aware of it during the late afternoon on the day it occurred. We have a “Dean’s e-mail account” which all students are aware of, they know they can contact the Dean of Medical Education directly by e-mailing this account and that it is monitored throughout the day. Several of the 24 students involved e-mailed the account to inform us of the situation and so Prof Doody was able to cancel her commitments for the next morning and travel to Derby to see the group. She had already spoken to Prof Pam Hagan, Director of Student Wellbeing, that evening, Prof Hagan contacted Mr Walton and he agreed to undertake a full investigation. Hence, Prof Doody was able to inform the students that this would be the next step. At that time, she did not know what sort of investigation Mr Walton would or could conduct, however she told the students he would contact them within 48 hours, as this is what she had understood. Prof Hagan also offered to see students individually, if they wished to seek any support immediately.
An apology to all BAME students has been provided at the beginning of this response.
Prof Pam Hagan and Dr Yvonne Mbaki have jointly chaired the Medical School BAME education group for over a year. The work of this group has particularly recognised that whilst some issues raised may affect all BAME students, it is important to apply an anti-essentialist lens and understand the experiences and impacts on specific ethnic groups. This group has a large membership drawn from all years of our medical courses and has been instrumental in guiding us in raising awareness and tackling BAME issues. To illustrate the work of our BAME education group, we have just circulated to all staff in the Medical School a document which contains a guide to lecturers on how to begin to decolonise and diversify our curriculum (Appendix 2).
The School BAME education group are planning a number of initiatives over the forthcoming semester. Amongst these is the introduction of Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity training and bystander intervention training for all our students. Prof Hagan is leading this programme on behalf of the School. Thank you for your suggestion that we include local community groups, religious leaders and business owners in this, we think this is an excellent idea and we will commend it to the group.
Transparency and Accountability
The School takes its responsibility to the medical profession and the public very seriously. As stated earlier, we agree that it is unacceptable for an individual who holds these views to practice as a doctor in today’s society.
When Prof Doody first visited the 24 students in Derby on 11th March, she asked if anyone wished to confess, or to provide any information on the identity of the offender. She stated students could do this confidentially by contacting either herself or Prof Hagan. Unfortunately, no-one chose to do so. We have been informed by Mr Walton that it was not possible for the University to insist that students were interviewed. In these situations, we can only offer students the opportunity to have an interview with us. It is our understanding that this offer was been made again to all 24 students on several occasions, by both Prof Hagan and Mr Walton.
The University has sought advice from its own IT team and an expert in the field of privacy and legislation in digital societies. We have been made aware of the legal reason why the police were unable to further pursue the identity of the offender. UK legislation is such that, if a perpetrator would ordinarily be sentenced to less than a year in prison, then a warrant cannot be obtained by the police to obtain personalised phone data from a network provider.
The University feel that this is unsatisfactory and has potentially prevented the identification of the offender in this case. We have made this clear by writing to the Race and Equality Commission to petition for a change in legislation in this regard (Appendix 3).
We have been told that PC Smith did discuss this case fully with his senior officer before the police closed the investigation into this case.
The General Medical Council (GMC) would not become involved in this issue as they do not regulate medical students, they devolve this responsibility to Medical Schools and this is why we have our Fitness to Practice procedures. When medical graduates apply to the GMC for provisional registration they are required to declare any fitness to practice proceedings that they have been subject to at Medical School. The GMC may then ask the School to see the records of these proceedings, before deciding whether to allow the graduate to register with them.
It is our hope that this response and the attached appendices meet this expectation in full.
The University will in future actively discourage all staff from using any anonymised digital audience survey platforms, such as Mentimeter. An e- mail to this effect will be sent to all Faculty Associate PVCs for Student Experience and Education with a request that this is to be disseminated widely across Schools. The University has convened a group of staff and students to determine a safe, sensitive and appropriate use of these tools in teaching contexts in the future.
All of the 24 Medical Students involved in this incident will be asked to complete the EDI and bystander intervention training mandated for all our medical students. We are mindful that only one of these students has committed a crime and that the other 23 are victims. We therefore do not consider that we can insist the whole group undertakes a bespoke training package which may be potentially distressing to some members. However, if Prof Judd at Derby is willing to provide training for these students and they wish to attend, then of course we would not have any objections.
It is our intention that all early years Medical Students at Nottingham will have completed EDI training and bystander intervention training during the forthcoming semester. Training will also vertically integrated into the medical curriculum and include our Schools in Derby and Lincoln and all clinical students over the course of the next year.
We hope this response helps to address your collective concerns and expectations with regard to the recent racist incident at Derby Hospital and reassures you of the measures that are being taken by the Medical School to prevent any further episodes of racist or similar unacceptable behaviours.
It has always been our intention to be fully transparent in our communications with student body. However, at certain points during the police investigation of this matter, we were not able to divulge developments to students, as we were told this may compromise the integrity of the police investigation. This certainly contributed to the delay in reporting back to the students involved the outcome of the police investigation and again we wish to apologise unreservedly for this.
Professor Gill Doody
Dean of Medical Education
University of Nottingham Medical School
Prof Brigitte Scammell
Dean of Medicine
University of Nottingham Medical School
Professor John Atherton
Pro Vice Chancellor
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences University of Nottingham
View Appendix 1: Report on Hate Incident and Derby Medical School
View Appendix 2: Decolonising and Diversifying the Medical Curriculum
View Appendix 3: Letter to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)