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Recruiting more people from ethnic minority groups into the NHS in England would improve the care of patients, cut costs, and increase the skills of NHS staff, says a report by the government agency Race for Health.
The 64 page report sets out ways that trusts can increase the number of people from ethnic minorities that it employs, through pre-recruitment support, better information on access to jobs, and help for people who qualified overseas. The report says that recruiting people from ethnic minority groups for new specialist services that are aimed at those groups would improve health outcomes in those communities.
The report is based on a study of 15 primary care trusts in England that had each tried in various ways to increase employment of people from ethnic minority groups in their areas.
One of them, South Birmingham Primary Care Trust, set up a work experience programme and provided NHS placements to local teenagers from regeneration areas as a way to raise awareness of the NHS among ethnic minority communities.
Bristol Primary Care Trust used 30 volunteer mentors to help ethnic minority people at all skill levels to succeed in the NHS. Westminster Primary Care Trust helped hundreds of refugee doctors and dentists to meet UK registration requirements.
Helen Hally, national director of Race for Health—a programme sponsored by the Department of Health to find ways to improve health care in ethnic minority groups and to encourage recruitment of people from those communities into the NHS, said: “Our report shows that BME [black and minority ethnic] communities are still poorly represented within the NHS, particularly at the top.”
The report warns that without decisive action on NHS employment, disillusionment could set in among such communities, which by 2010 will provide half the growth in Britain's working population.
Ethnic minority groups currently make up around 8% of the UK population. Although almost 14% of NHS staff come from an ethnic minority group, only three out of 400 directors of nursing are black, and just four chief executives in the NHS are black.
Inequality of access to health care is a major problem in the United Kingdom. About 40% of Bangladeshi and 60% of Pakistani children have visited a dentist, whereas the figure for all children in the UK is 90%. Infant mortality in England and Wales among children whose mothers are from Pakistan is double the national average. Young black men are six times more likely than young white men to be sectioned for compulsory treatment under the Mental Health Act.
A Healthcare Commission study last year showed that most NHS trusts had not met the legal requirement to publish details on their websites of monitoring of employment by ethnicity.
Surinder Sharma, national director of the health department's equality and human rights group, said, “The Department of Health is fully committed to ensuring there are people from diverse backgrounds at all levels of the service, including more black and minority ethnic people in senior positions.”
Towards Race Equality in Health: A Guide to Policy and Good Practice for Workforce Development is available at www.raceforhealth.org.