A damning report commissioned by the NHS Race and Health Observatory has cited radical action is needed urgently to tackle “overwhelming” minority ethnic health inequalities in the NHS.
The 166-page report produced in conjunction with the University of Manchester has found there is rampant inequity in every aspect of healthcare damaging the health of millions of patients. In fact, it reveals a system of healthcare failing those from ethnic minorities.
A combination of blatant racism, problems getting access to healthcare and incredibly, a desperately underwhelming system of collecting ethnicity data, has all contributed to creating a negative impact on the health of minority ethnic people in the UK.
The review examined 13,000 papers as interviews were carried out with NHS staff, policy experts and patients over the course of 12 months. It was led by Dharmi Kapadia, an investigator at the Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity, the UK’s leading research centre into minority ethnic, racial and religious inequalities. Kapadia also works as a sociology lecturer at The University of Manchester. The whole point of the review was to challenge leaders to act.
Some of the major findings are listed here:
- Minority ethnic groups were less likely to be referred to IAPT by GPs than white people.
- Minority ethnic people with psychosis are also less likely to be referred for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
- Minority ethnic patients who do get a referral are less likely than white British patients to receive an assessment.
- Minority ethnic parents reported their children faced the same barriers to accessing health services as they did.
- Asian babies are over-represented in admissions to neonatal units from home for jaundice.
- The review found “strong evidence” of “clear, very large and persisting ethnic inequalities” in compulsory admission to psychiatric wards, particularly affecting black people.
- The report revealed harsher treatment for black people.
- Black children are 10 times more likely to be referred to children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) via social services – rather than through their GP.
- Women whose first language was not English were denied access to interpreting services.
- There was evidence of negative interactions, stereotyping, disrespect, discrimination and cultural insensitivity, leading to some minority ethnic women feeling poorly treated in maternity wings.
- There was also a pay gap between black, Asian and other groups with racism cited within the service itself.
The researchers made clear, any efforts to improve health outcomes among minority ethnic patients were being thwarted by the shambolic collection of health information by NHS staff and organisations.
The review concludes inequalities in access to, experiences of, and outcomes of healthcare in the NHS “are rooted in experiences of structural, institutional and interpersonal racism”. For “too many years”, it adds, the health of minority ethnic people in England has been “negatively impacted” by 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 healthcare professionals”.
The director of the NHS Race and Health Observatory, Habib Naqvi explained: “By drawing together the evidence, and plugging the gaps where we find them, we have made a clear and overwhelming case for radical action on race inequity in our healthcare system.
“This report is the first of its kind to analyse the overwhelming evidence of ethnic health inequality through the lens of racism. These are shocking findings.”
Asian Standard invited the Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust to comment on the report. A spokesperson said: “The pandemic has shone a stark light on health inequalities across the country and the NHS is already taking action to improve the experiences of patients and access to services.
“The NHS has set out what local health services should be focusing on over the next year so they can make these improvements in their local communities and is already working closely with the Race and Health Observatory to drive forward the recommendations set out in this report.”
“The NHS 2022/23 Operational Planning Guidance states our sustained commitment to the focus on preventing ill-health and tackling health inequalities by redoubling our efforts on the five priority areas for tackling health inequalities set out in the NHS Priorities and Operational Planning Guidance March 2021 and further reiterated in our 22/23 Planning Guidance.
“We have also published the Core20PLUS5 approach to support the reduction of health inequalities at both national and system level.
“The recently published Elective Recovery Plan includes a clear focus on tackling health inequalities which includes dis-aggregation of the waiting list by ethnicity & deprivation.
“ We have also recently set up a health inequalities improvement dashboard, which aims to tackle some of the concerns mentioned and more, giving clinicians unprecedented, actionable insight, across a number of key areas we believe are central tackling to tackling these inequalities.”
It should be noted The NHS Race and Health Observatory is an independent body established by the health service in 2020 to investigate health inequalities in England.