A new report by PIF member talkhealth explores diversity in health and outlines the need for more tailored services.

The report is based on a recent survey of talkhealth members who were asked how their identity impacted on their access to healthcare.

Key findings include:

  • 70% believe not enough time and money is put into health and medical research for BAME communities
  • 64% believe BAME people have not been properly catered for during the pandemic
  • 62% of people say they have not received adequate support for a condition they believe to be more prevalent in BAME communities
  • 93% of BAME people have never been tested for moles or skin cancer
  • 10% of people from mixed backgrounds have had to explain their heritage during healthcare provider appointments

Race versus treatment

Participants were asked if they believed their race had an impact on their medical conditions.

Just over 4% said it had, with many complaining of racial bias from healthcare providers.

One person said: "During my first labour, I visited the hospital with severe contractions. 

"The midwife said, ‘I can tell by the look on your face, you are not having this baby right now’. 

"She sent me home. Forty-five minutes later, I almost gave birth in the car."

Another described having Hodgkin lymphoma aged 10. 

After months of not having her symptoms taken seriously, she was finally rushed to Great Ormond Street Hospital where, due to supposed racial bias, they mistook them for signs of TB..

"For months and months, every medical staff member failed me by dismissing my symptoms because I was too young to get it, and because they fell back on racial stereotypes that I and my parents were being an angry brown family."

Mixed messages

It is no longer socially acceptable to demand people of mixed heritage dissect their racial makeup for the benefit of others. 

However, talkhealth's report says, within the healthcare system, it seems providers are slow to catch up.

More than 10% of mixed heritage members said their racial background was brought up during medical assessments.

They reported being asked where their surnames hailed from, what their heritage was to ‘determine what blood tests were needed’ and having their white British identity overlooked in favour of HCPs concentrating on their ‘other’ ethnicity. 

talkhealth says, if it really is necessary to know where someone’s family originates from,  HCPs have to be able to produce solid reasoning.

A lack of representation in the doctors and experts patients see was also raised as a concern.

More than 60% of talkhealth BAME members have seen a HCP of their ethnicity fewer than five times in their lives. 

That potentially leaves patients feeling alienated and ‘othered’.

Money matters

Seventy per cent of respondents believe not enough time and money is put into health and medical research for BAME people.

Almost all say they are not aware of any BAME-specific services or clinical trials within the sector.

That is despite 60% believing BAME people have specific health needs that require attention independent from mainstream NHS services.

These problems have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Sixty-four per cent of surveyed members believe BAME people have not been properly catered for during the pandemic.

talkhealth says there is a need to assess why non-white communities are dying at such disproportionate rates. 

Time for change

The survey also asked what changes members would like to see implemented in order to make healthcare fairer and more diverse.  

People said they wanted more tailored services to be made available to BAME patients, especially considering the current pandemic. 

There were also calls for better cultural understanding about certain diseases like sickle cell, and for more funding to carry out vital research.  


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