Letter: Equal opportunities in the health service

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The Independent Online
Sir: In reply to Dr Ghada Karmi's letter (30 September), I would like to reaffirm the Government's strong commitment to promoting equal opportunity policies and eliminating racial discrimination right across the NHS, not just in the North Thames regions.

Since 1988, we have provided funding of pounds 2m to improve access to health services for black and ethnic minority groups. In Bradford we have promoted a programme to help ethnic minority women make the best use of cervical and breast screening services; we have helped to fund the Sickle Cell and Thalassaemia societies to advance their work; and we are supporting a checklist for NHS managers to encourage them to take the fullest possible account of the needs of ethnic minorities. And this is just a small selection of the excellent work that is going on up and down the country.

Data are increasingly becoming available to help the service meet its objectives in serving ethnic minorities: information from the 1991 Census question on ethnic origin will prove most important; ethnic monitoring will be introduced into the NHS from April 1993.

The Patient's Charter requires the NHS to respect the religious and cultural beliefs of all those it serves, and we have already issued new guidance to ensure that the spiritual needs of patients of all faiths are properly honoured.

Yours faithfully,

CUMBERLEGE

Parliamentary Under-Secretary

of State for Health (Lords)

Department of Health

London, SW1

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