Observations: ‘Dressing up’ to go to the doctors in the hopes of being taken seriously…

After speaking to a friend about their experience with healthcare services, I was somewhat surprised to hear the following:

“Doctors are bollocks unless you have the money to pay for it.

Black Male, 40s

I put on a suit to go to the doctor’s, so that they take me more seriously.

Black Male, 40s

He told me this during a discussion where he informed me that he’d found a lump he was worried about and went to the doctor’s office to have it checked.

Pressing him to explain further, he mentioned that he felt that his attempts to seek help from the doctors in previous visits were not taken seriously because of the colour of his skin and other factors he could not control.

What he had in his control, to a degree, was how he presented himself. He felt that appearing ‘well-put-together’ by wearing a suit was what he could do to improve his chances of the doctors taking him and his medical needs seriously.

I have no clue how common it is for people to ‘dress up’ to go to the doctor, but I have heard several other stories where people have tried to achieve the same goal.

I use a posh accent when speaking to the doctors.

Black female, 20s

I think the doctors didn’t take me seriously because I was wearing leggings.

White female, 50s

Levelling up 

The colour of someone’s skin, socio-economic background, dress, or how they talk shouldn’t put them at a disadvantage when receiving healthcare. 

So the question is – “How might we create equity in health services so that people feel they will and do, in fact, receive equitable access to care?”

To investigate this, I would:

  • Research how widespread the examples I’ve found are.
  • Gather evidence from all sides (doctors, patients, people who ‘dress up’ and people that don’t).
  • If found to be true, collate examples demonstrating that some people are advantaged and some are disadvantaged.
  • Gather evidence to show the impact on each cohort, e.g. increased NHS spending over time because early diagnoses are missed.
  • Explore the possible interventions and their impact – from light-touch ‘quick wins’ to more systemic, longer-term changes.

First thing would be to gather evidence and tell stories to get buy-in from the appropriate stakeholders who could influence change.

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