New report reveals ethnic inequalities in the NHS
The NHS Race & Health Observatory recently published a report which reveals ethnic inequalities in health outcomes in the NHS all the way through from birth to death. The report paints a very disturbing picture of a healthcare system failing ethnic minority patients.
The NHS Race & Health Observatory is an individual body that was established by the NHS in 2020 to investigate health inequalities in England. It is important to note that neither the report nor the body itself is intended to deride the NHS, a much-loved and respected institution. This new research simply seeks to identify how things could be improved to make for a healthier and fairer society.
What does the report say about ethnic inequalities in the NHS?
What is unique about the report is that it demonstrates that structural, institutional, and interpersonal racism are the root cause of most of the inequalities identified.
The issues highlighted include:
- A lack of appropriate treatment;
- Poor quality or discriminatory treatment by NHS staff;
- Missing ethnicity data from NHS systems; and
- Delays in seeking help for health issues “due to fear of racist treatment from NHS professionals”.
The NHS report concludes that there are five major areas where the NHS should take action. These are:
- Enforce guidelines on ethnic minority data in patient records.
- Produce better NHS statistics to monitor clinical outcomes for ethnic groups and undertake clinical research amongst those groups.
- Invest in interpreter services. The report found that high-quality interpreters were not being provided in mental health care, in GP surgeries, and at various points along the maternal healthcare pathways.
- Work to build trust with the CSE organisations (voluntary, community, and social enterprise organisations) who work with the ethnic minority population.
- Investment in research to understand the impact of racism on healthcare.
The chair of the British Medical Association, Dr Channd Nagpaul, said the findings demonstrated failures within the health service across all ages, groups and clinical areas. He describes the NHS as being under a “moral duty to put this right as a matter of urgency”.
An NHS spokesperson has confirmed that action is being taken and progress is being made.
Have these issues been raised before?
Some doctors have said that concerns about inequality of provision of healthcare amongst ethnic groups have been raised many times in the past and simply fallen on deaf ears. As a result, medical professionals fear that nothing will change, despite these new findings. Dr Habib Naqvi, Director of the NHS Race & Health Observatory, said in the report that, “reports and research won’t help, and what we need now is action.”
Last year, Medical Negligence Senior Associate, Fiona Dabell, wrote about the MBRRACE report which highlighted alarming health inequalities amongst ethnic groups in the maternity sector.
In many ways, the results in this report are not unexpected given the findings in the MBRRACE report relating to the maternity sector. It seemed unlikely that disparities amongst social groups would be confined to maternity services only.
What is evident from this particular report is that the lack of data on service use by ethnic groups could be hiding more unpleasant truths about inequalities in the NHS. At the same time, it is reassuring to see that action is being taken to ensure ethnic minorities have the same access to and service from the NHS as majority groups.
It’s important to note that this report simply highlighted existing issues in a bid to influence change in the NHS, rather than criticise our National Health Service. We look forward to seeing positive changes towards a fairer service.
If you have suffered from substandard treatment or healthcare, for any reason, you may be able to claim compensation. For more information, call our specialist medical negligence team on 0117 325 2929 or fill out our online enquiry form and we will be in touch.
If you would like to read a summary of the report, it can be found here.