January 30, 2023

Grim diagnosis of racial inequality in healthcare | Letters

The shameful racial inequalities documented by the NHS Race and Health Observatory report (Radical action needed to tackle racial health inequality in NHS, says damning report, 14 February) have rightly led to calls for action. But what has been missed is that even in the last decade alone, there have been a myriad of NHS-led plans, strategies and initiatives to tackle inequality. Some, such as the workforce race equality standard, had investment of millions of pounds. Yet the comparatively poorer experiences of black, Asian and minority ethnic patients and workers persist.

In understanding why, we must look at where accountability has gone. Almost every equality plan or initiative has had some form of oversight group. Almost always, these are led and dominated by the NHS, with race equality organisations such as ours often in a minority of one. With critical voices often ignored and regulators, such as the Equality and Human Rights Commission or Care Quality Commission, rarely acting when failures to progress racial equality are found, we are left with NHS leaders able to jump from one initiative to the next without any real change.

Unless we have accountability that is not led by the usual suspects and have regulators that are willing to act, the actions that follow this damning report will go the same way as in the past.
Jabeer Butt
Chief executive, Race Equality Foundation

Your article highlights that the pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on minority ethnic groups. This certainly echoes our experience as ethnic minority health and social care professionals. It is imperative that this matter is not just included in the terms of reference in the Covid-19 inquiry this spring, but forms a central part of Lady Hallett’s investigations.

We make this call with a clear-eyed view of the pressures on the 73-year-old NHS and with hope for what an inquiry could do. Our members, who include clinicians, researchers and ancillary workers, are facing these challenges daily – from the lack of appropriate PPE during the pandemic to the heavy losses among our ranks and our loved ones. The inquiry must make space to hear our unique perspectives on how health inequality is experienced in terms of race and ethnic origin as a matter of national importance.
Ade Adeyemi
Secretary, Federation of Ethnic Minority Healthcare Organisations

The NHS Race and Health Observatory report is incredibly important and action needs to be taken now at all levels. C3 Collaborating for Health has been working for a decade to highlight the burden of ill health and premature mortality from the main chronic diseases (cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke) that occur disproportionately in minority populations – the same issues led to the high rates of death and serious illness from Covid-19.

With the support of the Burdett Trust for Nursing, we will be working with nurses of black or Asian heritage who can engage with their local communities and improve health outcomes among minority ethnic patients. The “radical action” called for in the report needs to be addressed by better support for disadvantaged patients and for the key staff who can play a major part in the changes that are needed.
Christine Hancock
Founder, C3 Collaborating for Health; former general secretary, Royal College of Nursing

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