Racial Bias in the UK’s Healthcare System

Racial Bias in the UK’s Healthcare System
BSC, LLB (Hons) & LPC Sophia Azam
Legally reviewed by: BSC, LLB (Hons) & LPC Sophia Azam In: Medical Negligence

Despite efforts to promote racial equality, the UK’s healthcare system still faces prominent problems with racial bias. Unfortunately, racial bias can have dangerous consequences as patients face unequal treatment. This can present in a variety of forms, such as reduced access to healthcare services, disparities in the level of care, and discrimination in healthcare decision making. Understanding what racial bias is, equipping yourself with skills on how to self-advocate for yourself or others and advice on where a solicitor can help to protect bridge the gap in healthcare.

What is Racial Bias?

Racial bias in healthcare is when a doctor, hospital or healthcare system treats an individual unfairly because of their race or ethnicity. This unfair treatment can affect different parts of healthcare, like getting medical help, the quality of that help, and the choices doctors make about your health.

The NHS found that some people from different ethnic backgrounds have a harder time getting healthcare. This is especially true for those having babies, experiencing poor mental health, and suffering long-term illnesses. In a study from 2020, they learned that black patients in the UK often get treated unfairly by doctors and nurses because of their skin colour and where they’re from. A surveyed 75% of younger people (18-34) said they’ve felt this unfair treatment from healthcare workers.

Examples of Racial Bias in Healthcare

Access Disparities

Racial bias in healthcare can mean that some groups don’t have the same chances to get healthcare. This happens because they might not have hospitals or doctors nearby, face problems with transportation, or have trouble paying for medical help when they need it.

Quality of Care:

Racial bias can result in disparities in the quality of healthcare received. Patients from certain racial or ethnic backgrounds may receive suboptimal care, misdiagnoses, delayed treatments, or inadequate attention to their healthcare needs.

Treatment Decisions:

Racial bias can influence a healthcare provider’s decisions, leading to variations in treatment. This can result in underdiagnosis, undertreatment, or overmedicalisation of certain groups.

Communication and Trust:

Effective communication and trust between patients and healthcare providers is essential for quality care. Racial bias can result in certain people from racial or ethnic backgrounds experiencing poorer communication, less empathy, or less trust in their healthcare interactions.

Health Outcomes:

Racial bias in healthcare can make health problems worse for certain groups of people and in some cases increase the mortality rate for certain diseases.

Implicit Bias:

Implicit or unconscious biases held by healthcare professionals can influence their medical judgments and decision-making, often unintentionally.

The Effect of Racial Bias in the UK’s Healthcare System

Discrimination and bias in healthcare can happen for different reasons, and one of them is something called “institutional racism.” In healthcare, this shows up as differences in who gets care, how good that care is, and who gets important resources. These differences often relate to a household’s income and therefore affects young people in low-income families.

When looking at how certain health problems are managed, we can see that some ethnic groups are more likely to have long-lasting health issues like diabetes, heart problems, or sickle cell disease. This happens because of a mix of things like genes, the way people live, not having as much money, and not getting regular check-ups.

Even though there are more healthcare workers from different ethnic backgrounds in the NHS now, there still are not enough. This lack of diversity can make it hard to understand different cultures, keep stereotypes going, and make it tough for patients and doctors to trust and understand each other. That trust and understanding are important for making sure everyone gets fair and equal healthcare.

Results of Research into Racial Bias in the UK’s Healthcare System

Research has shown that there is an unconscious bias in the UK healthcare system towards people from different ethnic backgrounds. As many as 31% of individuals from diverse ethnic backgrounds have had to resort to private healthcare. This is due to issues like misdiagnosis and long wait times.

Research has also shown that individuals from diverse ethnic backgrounds may encounter obstacles when trying to access healthcare services. This includes longer wait times, difficulty scheduling appointments, and language barriers. These delays in receiving efficient and effective treatment can lead to delayed diagnoses and even the potential for misdiagnosis. When a potential misdiagnosis occurs, 96% of white individuals take action, such as seeking a second opinion, compared to 89% of people with mixed heritage.

The health disparities caused by racial bias can have serious consequences for the well-being of ethnic minorities. Aside from wavering trust and confidence in the healthcare system, it can also have a profound psychological and emotional impact on those who have experienced racial discrimination. 67% of white individuals would feel confident approaching their doctor with a physical ailment, whereas only 53% of individuals with mixed backgrounds share the same confidence.

How to Self-Advocate

At AWH Solicitors, our solicitors offer a variety of advocacy support. Our goal is to increase awareness about racial discrimination within the healthcare system, spreading awareness among healthcare professionals and the public.

To effectively advocate for yourself in a healthcare setting, it is crucial to stay well-informed about your health condition and understand the support you should reasonably expect from your healthcare provider. We encourage you to invest time in gathering accurate and reliable information through research. This knowledge will help you to engage in informed conversations with healthcare professionals and clearly articulate your healthcare preferences and needs.

It’s important if you don’t understand a decision a healthcare worker has made to question it. Make sure you express your preferences and thoughts openly. If you ever feel that your doctor hasn’t truly heard you or if you believe you didn’t receive the appropriate care and support, don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion or request further explanation.

Seeking Legal Help

When facing the complexities of racial bias in the UK healthcare system, seeking legal help from AWH Solicitors can be a pivotal step towards justice and accountability. Our experienced solicitors are dedicated to supporting those who have experienced discrimination or unequal treatment based on their ethnicity within the healthcare system. We are committed to ensuring that your rights are upheld and that those responsible for racial bias are held accountable for their actions. Therefore, if you’ve been a victim of racial discrimination in healthcare, we’re here to provide you with the legal guidance and advocacy you deserve to fight for a fair and equitable resolution.

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