Intended for healthcare professionals


Most black people in UK face discrimination from healthcare staff, survey finds

BMJ 2022; 378 doi: (Published 27 September 2022) Cite this as: BMJ 2022;378:o2337
  1. Gareth Iacobucci
  1. The BMJ

Most black people living in the UK have experienced prejudice from healthcare professionals because of their ethnicity, with younger people feeling especially discriminated against, a survey has revealed.1

Almost two thirds (65%) of black people who responded to a survey said that they had experienced prejudice from doctors and other staff in healthcare settings. This rose to three quarters (75%) among black people aged 18 to 34.

The report was commissioned by the Black Equity Organisation, a national civil rights organisation launched earlier this year to tackle systemic racism in the UK. The survey received 2051 responses from people of black or mixed black ethnicity, including 1014 people aged 18 to 34.

Vivian Hunt, the organisation’s chair of trustees, said, “The key to change is identifying and recognising the reality of black communities across the country. This research and our other report, Brick Wall after Brick Wall, provides a clear picture of what black communities experience daily and will help shape our work and campaigns moving forward.

“We will work in partnership with communities, businesses, grassroots organisations, and allies to deliver systemic change that will ensure that these experiences become a thing of the past.”

The report cited particular issues around the experience of black women in maternity care and the diagnosis of certain special educational needs. Survey participants felt as though they were not seen and that their concerns were not listened to or incorporated into their treatment decisions.

“Specific to Black women, participants felt that due to the misguided stereotype of ‘strong Black women,’ practitioners were dismissive of their pain,” the report said.

It noted that this finding had also been reported by the NHS Race Health Observatory,2 which found evidence of negative interactions, stereotyping, disrespect, discrimination, and cultural insensitivity across maternity services. This made many women from ethnic minority groups feel “unwelcome, and poorly cared for.” It also found that black patients in the UK were subject to more intrusive treatments, such as injectable antipsychotics, and were less likely to be offered talking therapy for severe mental illness.

Black African individuals were at least six percentage points more likely than those from other ethnic groups to believe that they were being discriminated against by NHS professionals because of their ethnicity.

Honest conversation

Reflecting on its findings, the organisation called for an end to prejudicial decisions being made by healthcare professionals when treating and diagnosing illness in black patients.

“In particular, in response to the findings of this report BEO [the Black Equity Organisation] will focus on improving maternity care statistics, and supporting healthcare providers to ensure that people with special educational needs and mental health issues are being catered for appropriately without suffering a detriment because of their race,” it said.

Miriam Deakin, interim deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, described the findings as “deeply concerning.” She said, “Racism has no place in the NHS. Time and again, we hear how patients from ethnic minority backgrounds have worse experiences of healthcare than their white counterparts.

“This must be addressed, and everyone—including the NHS and government—must work together to do more to tackle racism within health and care. It is only by recognising these facts and having an honest conversation about racism, its structural roots, and its impact, that we can achieve change.”