Last week, the NHS Race and Health Observatory, a body of experts working to fight ethnic health inequality, published its Rapid Review of Ethnic Inequalities in Healthcare. It shows that we need immediate action to tackle race inequity in the NHS.
In light of this, Diabetes UK is calling on the government to take radical action straight away, based on the review's findings, to fight health inequality in the NHS.
Health inequality in ethnic minority groups
We know that there are unfair differences in diabetes care and treatment for people from minority ethnic backgrounds. It’s one of the reasons why tackling inequality is one of the most important parts of our strategy at Diabetes UK. Regardless of someone’s background, we are all entitled to the same standard of care. There needs to be action to make this a reality.
Last year, we spoke out when the National Paediatric Diabetes Audit showed children from Black, Asian and mixed ethnic backgrounds have less access to diabetes technology (such as continuous glucose monitors and insulin pumps) compared to white children.
Studies have also shown Black people were 50% less likely than white individuals to be prescribed newer medications that are used to lower blood sugar. Those from an Asian background were 15% less likely than white people to be prescribed insulin and 50% less likely to be prescribed GLP-1 agonists.
The NHS Race and Health Observatory exists ‘to remove excuses’ and its review shows there must be radical change to address ethnic inequalities in healthcare.
What causes health inequality?
The review found that the health inequality experienced by people from ethnic minorities is caused by racial bias in institutions and across society. At Diabetes UK, we recognise and want to play our part in tackling the problems in the healthcare system that lead to the differences we see in how well people are able to manage and live with diabetes.
Structural inequalities - where groups of people have an unfair, unequal position in society compared to other groups of people - have huge impacts on health and wellbeing.
Everyone has a human right to a high standard of healthcare and to not be discriminated against because of their race or social background. Inequality takes away these rights.
The rapid review says that the health of people from ethnic minority backgrounds has been negatively impacted by:
- lack of appropriate treatment for health problems by the NHS,
- poor quality or discriminatory treatment from healthcare staff,
- a lack of high-quality ethnic monitoring data recorded in NHS systems,
- lack of appropriate interpreting services for people who do not speak English confidently,
- and delays in, or avoidance of, seeking help for health problems due to fear of racist treatment from NHS healthcare professionals.
Part of the review looked at studies focused on digital exclusion and access to health services. It found that for people from ethnic minorities, there was a lack of access to digital devices, like computers or smart phones. There was also a lack of digital literacy, meaning that people found it hard to use these devices. It also highlighted the fact that lots of healthcare apps aren’t available in languages other than English.
We at Diabetes UK strongly believe that it’s important that people can still have face-to-face appointments if they can’t use digital services or prefer not to.
How we're responding
We believe that information on diabetes should be available in more languages and formats. That’s why lots of our information about diabetes is available in languages other than English.
We also want to see more training for healthcare professionals on reducing implicit bias. This is where people act on the basis of prejudice or stereotypes without intending to.
Implicit bias can lead to worse health outcomes for people from ethnic minority backgrounds. Our NHS leaders must also create cultures that make racism completely unacceptable.
Health and care leaders at a national and local level should publicise data showing the health inequalities that exist across different ethnic groups and social backgrounds, and the progress they are making to reduce these.
The UK government committed to bringing forward a White Paper, which is a document setting out proposals for future government policy, on Health Disparities later this year.
It will set out how the government plan to address inequalities like those mentioned in the review. The White Paper must address the issues set out in the review and take on board the recommendations to tackle the ethnic inequality currently being experienced.
It’s time for real change. We are calling on the government to put an end to the unacceptable, unjust and unfair health inequality being experienced by people from ethnic minority backgrounds once and for all.