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20th February 2022

Ethnic inequality in the NHS: UoM researchers find evidence of discrimination

A UoM lecturer has found ethnic discrimination is rife across the NHS
Ethnic inequality in the NHS: UoM researchers find evidence of discrimination

On February 14, the NHS Race & Health Observatory, in partnership with the University of Manchester, the University of Sussex and the University of Sheffield, published a report witnessing evidence of ethnic inequality in the British healthcare system. The report, which has been financed by the NHS, focuses on five main areas of study: mental healthcare; maternal and neonatal care; digital access to healthcare; genetic testing and genomic medicine, with a particular emphasis on ethnic disparities within the NHS staff.

The report has published evidence that ethnic minorities (and especially Black individuals) within the NHS workforce, are suffering from racist abuse by other staff and patients. Abuses include ethnic pay gaps and difficulties in career development for BAME groups. There was also evidence to suggest that the Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted ethnic minority healthcare workers, as well as their working environment, especially concerning mental health and access to PPE.

Dr Dharmi Kapadia, a Sociology Lecturer at the University of Manchester, led the report’s research, with the aim to tackle ethnic health inequity in the NHS. Kapadia joined the university’s Sociology Department in 2017 and works for the Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE). Her main research focuses are concerned with racism, health, mental health, and older people. Before the publication of the ethnic inequality report, Kapadia has previously worked on racial inequalities, especially in the mental healthcare domain.

According to Dr Kapadia, evidence provided by the report is not surprising, and was even expected. She explains that “for people who work in this field, it was not a surprise” as we live in an “institutional and structural racist system”. For her, ethnic inequalities in the NHS are only “a small part of the big picture”, and similar evidence of racial discrimination can also be found in other areas of study such as the police, criminal justice, the political system, the educational system etc.

This report, therefore, provides strong and trustworthy evidence that there is an important ethnicity problem in the NHS that needs to be addressed by politicians. Indeed, for Dr Kapadia, making a change in institutional and structural racism requires “political and financial commitment”, and needs to be acknowledged to lead to notable improvements.

According to the report, five areas of improvement should be considered by the NHS in order to address racial inequalities in the institution. These include: enforcing guidelines on ethnic monitoring data; producing and providing better NHS statistics; investing more in interpreter services to help non-English speaking patients; working to build trust with ethnic minority groups and key VCSE organisations, and finally, investing in research to understand the impact of racism on healthcare.

Dr Kapadia also insists on the importance of educating people on the questions of ethnic discrimination and racist inequalities, to enable progress and equality in these areas. Accordingly, she suggests for students to have a look at the Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity’s website, on which UoM academics, in association with other university researchers, publish their research. Through the publication of short reports and research summaries, these scholars aim to make accessible the work that is being done on ethnic inequalities in health, culture, employment, and education across the country. Numerous of their publications focus on the impacts of Covid-19 on ethnic minorities, but also on racism in the police or in political spheres for instance.

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