Access to health services might be equally available across ethnic groups, but barriers to receiving equitable care remain a key problem in healthcare systems across the world, including the NHS. Greg Samios explores new solutions designed to ensure all patients receive the best and most inclusive care, regardless of their ethnicity, language, or cultural background.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement put inequity and social justice in the spotlight across many aspects of society, including – and perhaps especially – healthcare. There has rarely been so much scrutiny on healthcare settings, in terms of not only how well they perform, but also how inclusive their care is.
The UK is not alone in its multi-ethnic and multilingual societal makeup, but it is perhaps a prime example of how demographics can evolve through migration and globalisation. With at least 15% of the population identifying as an ethnicity other than white, the NHS must cater for a highly diverse patient pool. This heterogeneity should not mean that there are discrepancies in healthcare provision, but this is sadly the case. The King’s Fund think tank confirmed that, although it may be a complex picture, health inequity exists in England between ethnic minority and white groups, with the former more likely to report long-term illnesses and poor health.1
To be clear, access to health services might be equally available across ethnic groups, but there are barriers to receiving equitable care, with minority ethnic patients often reporting worse experiences than their white counterparts. Often this boils down to unsatisfactory communication between clinicians and patients – whether that be stigmatising language or language barriers – which can ultimately lead to poor uptake of preventative services and low health literacy among minority groups.2
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