Is there inequality in the healthcare system?
KIRAN MADAN >
SQE Trainee SolicitorMon 30 October 2023
The following article discusses sensitive topics which include race and care levels within the healthcare system. This is specifically in relation to women who are from an ethnic minority. Some of the content may be triggering for those who have, or have had family, who have shared similar experiences.
Kiran Madan, SQE Trainee Solicitor from our Clinical Negligence Team discusses the unequal treatment of ethnic minority mothers in the UK regarding obstetric care. She has summarised recent reports which detail the effects of the healthcare system for mothers within ethnic minority groups.
The most recent MBRRACE-UK Report found that when at maternal risk, black women were 3.7 times more likely to die than white women. It also found that asian women were 1.8 times more likely to die than White women.
As a result of these shocking statistics, the Government published the report Black Maternal Health to address the imbalance.
The report found that there were many possible reasons for the disparity in frequency of deaths. These include:
- Pre-existing conditions and comorbidities (the presence of one or more diseases or conditions in a patient),
- Socio-economic factors including deprivation,
MBRRACE-UK’s 2022 report confirmed that women living in the most deprived factors continued to have the highest mortality rates. It confirmed that they are 2 and a half times more likely to die than their counterparts living in the least deprived area.
The Office for National Statistics noted a higher proportion of babies from black, asian and ‘Any Other’ ethnic groups were born in the most deprived areas, compared with the white ethnic group.
- and unfortunately, racist maternal care, ignorance including bias, microaggressions and racism
Though it may seem the first two factors can be without fault of our healthcare system, it can also raise the question of whether equity had been considered. Equity recognises that each person has different circumstances, needs, and opportunities. Therefore, different people require different resources to reach an equal outcome.
The Report highlighted that our healthcare system has not been set up in a way where women from ethnic minorities are able to access the same healthcare as white women. This has a direct impact on their safety.
The third factor contributing to the alarming statistics was racism.
“Implicit or explicit racism played a role in women’s access to treatment and the care they received.”
Various issues were highlighted in the report:
- Women were often viewed as “not like me” by medical and care staff.
- The maternity system was not set up for individuals with multiple and complex problems which is an issue across all ethnic groups.
- Microaggressions and perpetuated ethnic stereotypes were prevalent, such as black women having lower pain threshold.
- Inaccurate recording of women’s ethnic backgrounds which affected the care given to patients.
Shockingly, research revealed over 42% of women reported feeling discriminated against during maternity care, most commonly due to their race.
The report ultimately found “Too many Black women have experienced treatment that falls short of acceptable standards, and we are concerned that the Government and NHS leadership have underestimated the extent to which racism plays a role.”
The report does provide some reassurance that recognition of these issues is not enough. It details the various reforms the Government have introduced to address the issues. In short, the following actions have been implemented to address the disparities:
- Continuity of carer for Black, Asian and mixed ethnic groups and those living in the most deprived areas.
- Maternity Disparities Taskforce set up.
- £6.8m in funding for local maternity systems to implement equity and equality action plans.
If you feel you have been personally affected by the above, and you believe that this has compromised the care you or your child received, our team are here to listen and help you work out whether compensation may be available to you.
Alternatively, you can find out more about our clinical negligence services by clicking here.