"Have you been resident in the UK for the last six months?" the receptionist at the local district hospital asked this week.
The older white man with a broad Yorkshire accent, looked amused at the question but also rueful. We all know the sub-text here. This is clearly a new policy introduced amidst overcooked concerns about health tourism and rights of access. But it also takes place against a background of increased hate crime and anxiety about identity.
It was obviously being introduced in the right way – i.e. everyone was asked the question. That matters. But the same question feels plain different if you are from a black and minority ethnic background. It feels uncomfortable, if you have ever experienced discrimination or exclusion. And if you are from a minority, you will have experienced both.
In coaching people from BAME backgrounds, this is a recurring thread of experience. Am I not making faster progress in my career because I need to up my game, or is this happening to me because of negative perceptions, or worse?
It's really important to make it possible for coaching clients to talk about and work through these issues. Working with one black manager, not yet reaching her full potential, the moment I asked her how she felt about these issues as a black woman, prompted an audible sigh of relief that it was out in the open, the beginning of building rapport.
And how do I feel about the residency question? Uncomfortable certainly. What is the best way to do this, if it has to be done?