Health and Gender Inequalities UK 2022

During this battle with Covid-19, the healthcare sector has been at the forefront of the fight, pushed beyond the limit to help others. This article is based on a review, posted in March 2022 by the Women’s Budget group, which stated “calling for: a re-evaluation of feminised roles such as nursing and care work, and greater opportunities for training and career progression; tackling workforce shortages; a recognition of the increased discrimination faced by BAME and disabled staff; the prioritisation of the needs of a diverse range of groups”.

health and gender inequalities

It is widely known that health, social care and social work sectors form one of the largest employment sectors within the UK economy, employing approximately 4.4 million people in 2019. The workforce is also predominantly female: 78% of employees in these sectors are women which is a great statistic to see. However, these divisions are hierarchically structured by gender, and staff shortages have intensified long standing issues of excessive workloads with decreased benefits and outcomes.

The Autumn Budget in 2021 announced an increase of NHS core funding to £162.6 billion, a wide growth of 3.8%. Whilst this is a positive change it is still below the 4% (a 0.2% difference which equates to approximately £324m) that the Kings Fund estimated is needed to improve services, including short shortages. NHS hospitals, community providers and mental health services have conveyed a shortage of nearly 84,000 staff, including 38,000 nurses. As a result, recruitment from overseas have increased to prevent staff shortages. This may provide a short-term solution, but it should be further investigated to see why staff shortages increase each year alongside satisfactory among current healthcare workers.

In addition, this review has identified how BAME communities generally experience poorer health than the overall population, and health inequalities exist between different minority ethnic groups. This review has found women are more likely to use GP services than men. The GP consultation rate for women is 32% higher than that for men, partly due to reproductive-related consultations. Consequently, GP appointments and the number of GP practices have fallen consistently since 2015. The demand for healthcare is increasing whilst availability to help is decreasing – a possible concerning factor.

domino

As a result, further evaluation is needed to address the possible implications of how staff shortages may start a domino effect, leading to decreased appointments and availability for patients, especially in the ethnic minority community.

Written by Nisha Uddin (Future Genetics Research Scientist)

Ethnic Healthcare Inequalities UK

This healthcare inequalities article is based on a review completed by researchers at University of Manchester, Sheffield and Sussex. It was carried out on behalf of the NHS Race and Health Observatory, looking at research and literature published between 2011 to 2021.                                  

Major reviews and studies have identified various Black, Asian and minority ethnic group  inequalities within the NHS, experiencing racism and ‘widespread’ differences in treatment. By reviewing studies relating to accessibility and experience such as: maternal healthcare, mental health and neonatal care, genetic testing and more, the review found an excessive amount of healthcare inequalities in all areas reviewed.

Woman wearing hijabSouth Asian manOld man
woman nurseHijabi womanEast asian woman

Healthcare Inequalities:

Within this review about the NHS issues, researchers identified many of the problems above are ‘longstanding issues in the NHS’, further comments explaining these experiences root back to structural, institutional and interpersonal racism. The review stated:

“For many years, the health of ethnic minority people has been negatively impacted by:

  • Lack of appropriate treatment by the NHS
  • Poor quality or discriminatory treatment from healthcare staff
  • Lack of high-quality ethnic monitoring 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.”

From the problems recognised in this review, researchers believed it is crucial to increase the trust of ethnic minorities in healthcare services to improve the rate of successful outcomes.

crossed out healthcare

Barriers to seek help:

Mental Health may be a sensitive topic to some but it is one that should be addressed more frequently. The negative stigma attached to mental health disorders can be a reason behind people avoiding to seek help.

Reviews have highlighted how minority ethnic groups have experienced problems accessing services such as Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT), explaining these groups are less likely to refer themselves BUT also less likely to be referred by their GP.

In addition, the review noted how vital it is to record patient’s ethnicity accurately to ensure fewer missing data. This allows research studies to have accurate scales of the problem that can be addressed, including those in ethnic minority groups.

Impact on Careers:

This review has not only found problems regarding patients, it has recognised difficulties found in the work force of the NHS. Studies have presented how racism has interfered with ethnic minority staff members in terms of their career progression. Pay gaps are another issue addressed in this review, affecting ethnic minority groups in most staff sectors.

Findings from the BMA’s Racism in Medicine survey, published in 2022, showed 75.6% of NHS doctors have experience a form of racism at least once in the last two years – 17.4% experience racist incidents more regularly.

pie chart inequalities

There are a number of areas that can be improved in the NHS, a few recommendations mentioned in the review such as:

  • Ensuring patients’ ethnicity are recorded precisely via self-reported ethnicity in all interactions with NHS staff.
  • Investing in interpreter services: available for in person, telephone and digital appointments.
  • Build trust with ethnic minority groups and the community
  • Invest in research to understand the impact of racism on healthcare as well specific health problems in ethnic minorities.

This review and studies have shown all these issues are yet to be tackled and improved. The evidence presents unacceptable numbers of inequalities.

The time to implement action on ethnic minority inequalities is now.

(Written by Nisha Uddin, Future Genetics Research Scientist)

NHS Long Term Plan – An Alternative to Hospitals

Hospital Admissions – are they necessary?

The NHS has reported that presently, around 2500 hospital beds are unnecessarily occupied by patients who are well and fit enough to be discharged but choose to stay due to the unavailability or delay of social care and support in their homes or communities. Going to the hospital is usually the only option for some.

A New Approach

My name is Sabrina and I am a Research Scientist at Future Genetics. On the 21st of November, Theresa May made a public announcement explaining that more NHS patients will be cared for and supported in their own homes and local communities. Subsequently, this will lessen unnecessary hospital stays and admissions and allow people to receive treatment specific to them, closer to home.

Budget Boost

In addition to the existing budget for primary and community healthcare, the prime minister has set out a major investment boost in these services; worth £3.5 billion a year in real terms by 2023/4, as part of the NHS Long Term Plan. This will go towards building community-based rapid response teams; consisting of doctors, nurses and physiotherapist who will be able to give urgent care and support to patients as well as emergency treatment, preventing the need to go to hospital.

The NHS Long Term Plan 

The NHS Long Term Plan will also help to provide more dedicated support to older people in care homes, as most of the time hospital admissions from care homes are avoidable. For some, especially older people, needlessly staying in a hospital bed for extended periods of time could be detrimental to their health. The longer they stay in bed, the faster their muscles waste, which not only risks their health but also their independence.

Personalised Healthcare 

This plan would allow patients to get the care they specifically need in order to stay healthy and help them to stay independent for longer. It helps not only the patients, but also lessens the burden on the NHS. In her announcement, Theresa May mentioned that ‘the longer a patient stays in hospital, the more it costs the NHS and the more pressure is put on the hard-working staff’. With the pressure the NHS is facing, in most cases, the best they can offer is a standard ‘one size fits all’ approach, which may not prove to be effective in some groups of patients and so time, money and resources get wasted. This new focus on primary and community healthcare, can allow for a more tailored approach specific to the needs of the individual. 

Delays

Delays are also a huge problem which are caused as a result of unnecessary hospital admission and stays. This can be delays in waiting times, delays for other patients, delays in routine operations and delays in transferring care between the NHS and social care services. The NHS Long Term Plan will help to aid patients in leaving sooner or even help to avoid them being admitted into hospital to begin with. Relieving this pressure on the NHS, could essentially free up to 2000-3000 beds.

The Future of the NHS 

The extra time, money and resources saved could also be used to focus on preventative measures and cures, instead of management and control, in addition to more personalised treatment. This could be a big step for the NHS, but first the way in which primary and community healthcare work together must change. 

Written by Sabrina K Bolia (Future Genetics Research Scientist)