Ethnic monitoring: Is health equality possible without it?

Author(s): Fulton, Rorie;  

Briefing series: Better Health Briefing Paper 21

Publisher: Race Equality Foundation

Publication date: November 2010

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The collection and use of ethnic monitoring data enables health services to identify and respond to health inequalities as experienced by different social groups.  Despite recent improvement, collection rates for ethnic monitoring data in the UK remain poor. 

The Equality Act 2010, by means of the public sector Equality Duty, requires public services to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination and to advance equality of opportunity between different groups. 

This paper argues that health equality across different social groups is not possible without improved ethnic monitoring.  It concludes by stressing the need for politicians to respond positively to the need to mandate ethnic data collection across primary and secondary health care.

Key messages:

  • Collecting and using ethnic group data enables health services to demonstrate a clear and localised understanding of where inequalities exist and hence to take informed measures to address them
  • The lack of mandatory ethnic monitoring across primary care means that there are no systematic data available for ethnic health inequalities
  • Against a backdrop of increasing ethnic diversity, poor compliance with race equality legislation gives particular cause for concern
  • Successful ethnic monitoring requires a strong regulatory framework complemented by proactive, committed leadership
  • Examples of good practice do exist, but failure to use ethnicity data to inform and improve practice has been a persistent barrier to improved collection rates: too few data are recorded and those that are recorded are too little used to inform practice.

Sections:

  • The role of ethnic monitoring in identifying and responding to health inequalities
  • Incomplete collection of ethnic group data in primary care
  • Poor compliance with race equality legislation in a context of increasing ethnic diversity
  • Regulation and the need for leadership
  • Examples of good practice in the collection and use of ethnic monitoring data