Institutional racism ‘exists across health service and public sector’

Jemma Crew, PA Social Affairs Correspondent
·2-min read

Institutional racism exists across the health service and the public sector, according to an independent body set up by the NHS to tackle inequalities experienced by ethnic minorities in England.

The NHS Race and Health Observatory said it was “disappointed” by some of the conclusions of the report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, published on Wednesday.

The review, commissioned in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, claimed that for some key health metrics, including life expectancy and overall mortality, ethnic minority groups had better outcomes than the white majority population.

Black Lives Matter protests
Demonstrators during a Black Lives Matter protest at Marble Arch, central London (Jonathan Brady/PA)

This evidence “clearly suggests” ethnicity is not the “major driver” of health inequalities in the UK, it said.

Instead, it suggests that deprivation, geography and differential exposure to key risk factors, including obesity, smoking and alcohol use, were indicators for worse health outcomes.

The report’s chairman also said it had found no evidence of “institutional racism”, and the report criticised the way the term has been applied, saying it should not be used as a “catch-all” phrase for any microaggression.

Observatory chairwoman Marie Gabriel said: “The Observatory believes that tackling persistent ethnic and racial disparities in health, and across society, is absolutely the right thing to do.

“However, as an evidence-led organisation, the Observatory was disappointed by several of the headline conclusions of the report, including those on the causes of ethnic inequalities.

“The Observatory is an independent expert body, established by the NHS to examine the health inequalities experienced by ethnic minority communities in England.

“The evidence it cites is clear: institutional racism exists in this country, it exists in the organisations that make up our health and care system, and it exists across wider public establishments.”

One of the commission’s 24 recommendations is for the Government to establish a new independent body to target health disparities in the UK, which would work alongside the NHS.

The Observatory said several recommendations are of “particular interest” and it would be contacting government departments to discuss these further.

It will provide a more detailed response to the commission’s report in the coming weeks.

It added: “Britain will never be a ‘successful multicultural community’ until it is an equal one.

“The Observatory has been established to shine a light on discriminatory structures, and to gather evidence to support health and care organisations to rebuild those structures in a way that eradicates, rather than exacerbates, inequality.”