According to England’s largest study on the subject, the NHS “fails” on people with ethnic minorities.
The University of Manchester study found that the average health of 60 year olds from Gypsy or Irish traveler, Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Arab groups is similar to that of a white British 80 year old.
The study found that injustice in NHS services exacerbates health inequalities, with people from some ethnic minorities more likely to report inadequate support from local services to cope with health conditions.
The main author Dr. Ruth Watkinson of Manchester University said: “This suggests that the NHS as an institution is failing people from some ethnic groups.
“Policies are needed to transform healthcare and wider support services to ensure that they meet the needs of all people in England’s multi-ethnic population.
“Policymakers also need to address the structural racism that makes it difficult for people from ethnic minorities to access socio-economic opportunities as poverty is a major cause of poor health.”
Roughly 12% of the UK adult population is from ethnic minorities, but these communities have experienced higher rates of infection and death during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The study, published in Lancet Public Health, used the UK GP patient survey to analyze the responses of nearly 1.4 million adults over 55 who were surveyed between 2015 and 2017.
The sample included 152,710 people who identified themselves as belonging to an ethnic minority – the largest sample ever.
In 15 out of 17 ethnic minorities, health-related quality of life was on average lower than that of white Britons, with inequalities generally greater for women.
Mattey Mitchell, Romany and Health Campaigner at Friends, Families and Travelers, said, “For the Roma, these results reflect a stark and familiar reality.
“We have learned to accept this reality as the norm, but this study reminds us that it is not.” I hope this in turn will remind others that the sharp edge of inequality has a very real and dangerous impact on people’s lives. “
Josie Garrett of the same charity said the results were “not surprising”.
She added: “It is deeply unfair that gypsies and travelers experience premature aging, poorer health and greater difficulty in accessing essential care and support. Everyone should have the opportunity to live long and healthy lives, and it is important that more is done to ensure fair access and experience of healthcare for gypsies and travelers. “
The two ethnic groups that were healthier than the white British were Chinese men and women and black African men.
While this was true for all age groups for Chinese men, in the analysis only certain age groups of Chinese women and black African men were healthier than white Britons: those between 55 and 64 years for black African men and 55 to 74 years for Chinese women.
The study found large differences between the races, often grouped into large categories. For example, Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Chinese ethnic groups are often classified as “Asian”. However, the study found that people of Bangladeshi and Pakistani descent often had the worst health disadvantage, while people of Chinese descent had a “relative advantage.”
Co-author Dr. Alex Turner said, “This underscores the need for more nuanced research to understand the specific difficulties that older adults from certain ethnic minorities face.”
Elderly ethnic minority people were more likely to report common long-term illnesses such as diabetes and two or more conditions.
Dr. Turner added, “Researchers were unable to examine the health outcomes of people 55 and over from ethnic minorities because they are not in sufficient numbers in most of the datasets
“Much official data does not distinguish between groups that can mask inequalities. However, this study allowed us to analyze the results separately for each of the 18 ethnic groups in the UK census and identify differences between them.
“More data needs to be collected and people from ethnic minorities need to be better included in longitudinal studies.”
Sam Royston of the Marie Curie charity said: “We know that these inequalities often crystallize at the end of life – and as a result, too often, people from ethnic minorities miss out on palliative care.
“The pandemic has further exposed the extent of health inequalities across our country, particularly for people of ethnic background, many of whom have looked at the complexities of death and grief in lockdown coupled with the harsh realities of racism.”