The NHS needs more diversity within its local, regional and national leadership, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has said after major review into ethnic inequalities in healthcare.

The review, by the NHS Race and Health Observatory, found ‘overwhelming’ evidence of poorer outcomes for ethnic minority patients across all aspects studied across 10 years’ worth of research, including maternity care and career progression.

It also found that ethnic minority patients were less likely than white British patients to be referred for mental health support.

Dr Dharmi Kapadia, lead investigator for the Observatory review said: ‘For too many years, the health of ethnic minority people has been negatively impacted by a lack of high-quality ethnic minority data recorded in NHS systems; lack of appropriate interpreting services for people who do not speak English confidently and delays in, or avoidance of, seeking help for health problems due to fear of racist treatment from NHS healthcare professionals.

‘Our review confirmed that all of these issues are still to be tackled by the NHS. The evidence on the poor healthcare outcomes for many ethnic minority groups across a range of services is overwhelming, and convincing. The time for crucial action on ethnic inequalities in healthcare is now.’

In response to the report, the RPS has called for more ethnic minority representation in leadership roles within the NHS in order to change these inequalities.

‘Truly shocking’ findings

RPS director for England, Ravi Sharma, said that the report was ‘truly shocking’, and it was ‘totally unacceptable’ that those from ethnic minority backgrounds continue to experience poorer access and outcomes.

He added: ‘The report is clear that an urgent action plan is needed from the NHS to improve patient care and tackle workforce issues without delay. Recommendations such as improving ethnicity data collection, examining ethnic pay gaps, and reviewing recruitment and staff development procedures, will enable a greater understanding of the barriers still to be removed for staff to progress within the NHS.

‘Ultimately, we want to see more ethnic minority colleagues in leadership positions locally, regionally and nationally. Without this, our perspective is bypassed, our skills and contributions are missed and inequalities are perpetuated for patients and the workforce.’

He also urged the NHS and Government to include pharmacy in national plans following this report.

‘The pharmacy profession has a high representation of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic colleagues, comprising over 45 per cent of the workforce,’ he said.

‘We urge the NHS and governments to include pharmacy in national plans to improve inclusive pharmacy practice to benefit patients, to ensure the workforce is represented at all levels and to protect the safety and wellbeing of pharmacists, their teams and the communities they serve.’

In 2020, The Pharmacist found that the majority of racial abuse and discrimination that happens in community pharmacy goes unreported.

Last year, pharmacists were called upon to be allies to underrepresented and minority colleagues in a bid to improve diversity, equity and inclusion.