Speaking with a “cottage cream-thick English accent” is an example of privilege, NHS leaders have been told in seminars on racial justice.
NHS executives and medics have attended a series of online sessions discussing “whiteness” and “systemic” racism in the health service, as part of diversity training.
The Telegraph has obtained copies of the internal talks, organised by NHS England's inclusivity chief and attended by hundreds of staff.
Various professors and activists were invited along with NHS diversity chiefs to speak about "dismantling" racism within the health service and “historical myths and monsters” around race.
Each speaker stated their pronouns, such as she/her and he/him, while introducing themselves.
Campaigners and a government insider last night condemned the “right-on racket” and urged Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, to ensure public funds were not being wasted on “woke propaganda”.
In one talk in June, titled “creating an anti-racist NHS – what is the work to get us there?”, Kehinde Andrews, a professor of black studies, claimed the NHS needed to “acknowledge that there was systemic racism in the workplace from individual workers to executives”.
He went on to tell 850 NHS staff that they needed to “unlearn” their preconceptions about privilege and realise “all it means is that you’re protected from the effects of adversity”.
“I’m privileged to be a man. I’m privileged to have this cottage cream-thick English accent. That’s my privileges,” he told the session.
Staff told they need to ‘unlearn’
Tracie Jolliff, an NHS inclusion executive, goes on to explain in the call that privilege is a “misunderstood term”, adding: “Lots of white people are not born with silver spoons in their mouth. But it just means that you don’t have to worry about being discriminated on a daily basis as a result of your race.”
She also said that “whiteness can be a mindset in black people because we’ve all been socialised to thinking that way”.
In other seminars, speakers told NHS leaders how “the Government is trying to use history to create a sense of threat amongst mainly white communities” and how the levelling-up agenda for northern England would “offer flags and xenophobia instead”. The seminars all took place in the first half of this year.
Jenni Douglas-Todd, NHS England’s director of equality and diversity, added in the seminars that the NHS was “flying the flag for anti-racism” and in the process, “we need to unlearn that being colour-blind [towards race] is the positive thing to do”.
She suggested the NHS needed to develop ways to "measure" anti-racism similar to how patient waiting times and medics’ performance is tracked.
And “without a shadow of a doubt” the impacts of Covid within the NHS and issues around provision of protective equipment for staff "may have been different" had there not been mostly "white leaders" in charge, she added.
Dr Halima Begum, chief executive of the Runnymede Trust, also addressed the seminars and claimed NHS services were geared towards “those that can demand more, who are middle class, who can speak in an accent in one way or another”.
It is understood that more NHS race seminars are planned for the coming months.
‘Seminars will incense many people’
Conservative MPs and the Health Secretary are understood to be concerned that taxpayer money handed to the NHS after the National Insurance rise could be spent on diversity training.
A Whitehall source told The Telegraph: “Taxpayers, now more than ever, deserve to know their NHS is working on their priorities. Lessons on how problematic white people are is not one of them. Every NHS leader must now ask how they can show the public they care as much about A&E as they do D&I [diversity and inclusion].”
Harry Fone, campaign manager at the TaxPayers' Alliance, added: "I suspect many people will be incensed and perhaps even insulted by these seminars.
"Public money shouldn't be used for right-on rackets, especially in light of the recent hike in National Insurance. Health ministers must act and ensure taxpayers' money is focussed exclusively on essential frontline care."
An NHS spokesman said: "There is absolutely no place for racism in the NHS and our patients and staff should not be subjected to discrimination of any form.
"While these webinars give staff a platform to discuss the barriers that they can face, the experiences and views expressed were those of individuals and not representative of the views of the NHS."