Letter: Health care for ethnic minorities

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The Independent Online
Sir: We agree with the Chief Medical Officer that the health of ethnic minorities has been neglected in the NHS ('Health ministry admits neglect of ethnic minorities', 29 September).

It is for this reason that the two north London health regions set up the Health and Ethnicity Programme in 1989.

The programme is unique in the NHS. It exists to promote knowledge and understanding of multicultural health care and to define the appropriate NHS response to it.

Part of the problem lies in doctors' and nurses' lack of training in ethnicity and health and we have addressed this in setting up the first multicultural health course for GPs in 1991.

We followed this initiative with The Ethnic Health Factfile, a comprehensive guide for doctors and nurses who treat ethnic minority patients.

Dr Kenneth Calman rightly points to the paucity of health data by ethnic groups, and we have just published the first methodology for the implementation of ethnic monitoring in the health service. It should guide health authorities on how to record and use ethnic health data. Given the current situation in Europe, our work has concentrated recently on the urgent issue of refugees and migrants. Our publications are available to all those involved in this area, both in the NHS and beyond.

Our hope remains that units such as ours will be replicated in the NHS. Some have argued that this only encourages a kind of apartheid in health, but we believe that only through a special emphasis on the health of minorities will the balance of inequality be redressed and equal access to health care provided for all.

Yours faithfully,

GHADA KARMI

Consultant in Ethnic Health

Health and Ethnicity Programme

North West/North East Thames

Regional Health Authorities

London, W2

29 September

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