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At 60, some ethnic minority groups only have similar health to a white Briton who is 80

Written by on 29/01/2021

The NHS is “failing” people from some ethnic minority backgrounds, according to the most extensive study of the issue in England.

It found the average health of 60-year-olds from Gypsy, Irish Traveller, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Arab groups to be similar to a white British 80-year-old.

The University of Manchester, which carried out the study, said unfairness in NHS services was exacerbating health inequalities.

“We have a health crisis of the pandemic within a much deeper health crisis that was already existing,” lead author Dr Ruth Watkinson told Sky News.

“The work we’ve done is based on a survey from before the pandemic and what it shows is that there were these huge inequalities in health going into the pandemic.”

The study used the England-wide GP Patient Survey to analyse responses from almost 1.4 million adults aged over 55, surveyed between 2015 and 2017.

It included over 150,000 people who self-identified as belonging to an ethnic minority group – the largest-ever sample.

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Key findings include:

  • The two ethnic groups who were healthier than white British people were Chinese men and women, and black African men
  • Inequalities tended to be wider for older women, with older Bangladeshi women around three times more likely to report poor experiences compared with older white British women
  • People from almost all ethnic groups were much more likely to report insufficient support from local services to manage their health conditions and to say they lacked self-confidence in managing their health
Qaiser Bukhari
Image: Qaiser Bukhari says he was put off visiting the GP after they became impatient with him

Qaiser Bukhari, 61, who is from Pakistan and speaks little English, said GPs would become impatient with his language difficulties – which discouraged him from visiting the doctor.

“Sometimes, two or three times, I’d ask the doctor something and he says: ‘Why are you asking again and again?’ But I don’t understand the answer so I have to ask again and again,” said Mr Bukhari.

“I felt like the doctor was not [happy] with this and naturally this was a problem,” he said.

“Sometimes I’d just take paracetamol and decide not to go to the doctor.”

Dr Watkinson said people from some ethnic minority groups – particularly Asian groups – were more likely to report poor experiences at their doctors’ surgery.

“This suggests the NHS as an institution is failing people from some ethnic groups,” she said.

Dr Ruth Watkinson says there is systemic racism at the root of the way some people are treated
Image: Dr Ruth Watkinson says there is systemic racism at the root of the way some people are treated

Approximately 12% of the British adult population is from an ethnic minority background, but these communities have experienced higher rates of infection and mortality during the COVID-19 pandemic.

An NHS spokesperson said: “While of course the determinants of health and wellbeing stretch far beyond health care itself – and include jobs, housing, income, diet, exercise and wider social inequalities – the health service also has a key role to play in supporting diverse communities to stay healthy and access high-quality care.”

Dr Watkinson warned that healthcare and wider support services needed to transform to make sure they met the needs of all individuals in England’s multi-ethnic population fairly.

She said: “People have started to talk about how we can build back better and it’s going to be really important that we put at the heart of that tackling this systemic racism.”

The University of Manchester study has been published in the Lancet Public Health journal.

 Sky News

© Sky News 2020

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