York’s BAME residents have shared feelings of being misunderstood, treated differently, and discriminated against by health and social providers, a new report published by Healthwatch York says.
Healthwatch York, part of the charity UK Healthwatch, developed the report to engage with and understand the issues some BAME residents face in York’s health and social care system.
The report found that many people felt that GPs and other health professionals often didn’t listen to or understand them, disregarded cultural differences, or lacked knowledge about what illnesses looked like for them.
One resident said: “When I go to the GP, they never seem to know what’s what with my skin as I am Black, and [they] have to search on Google what skin illnesses would look like on my skin. This makes me lose all trust in going to the doctors.”
Another told Healthwatch: “The doctor at the hospital blamed my condition on my race, in the end, after running tests, I didn’t even have the condition the doctor assumed I have.”
Jo Madu, Welfare Officer for YUSU’s BAME Network, recognised these accounts, telling York Vision: “More often than not, the medical needs of BAME individuals aren’t recognised.
“This can stem from discrimination or a lack of understanding of the way BAME people, and especially Black people, present symptoms.”
Speaking at the City of York Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board on Wednesday, Carol Runciman, Executive Member for Health and Adult Social Care, said that: “This is work that needs doing, and we’ll all be able to learn from it.”
However, the meeting heard that it had been difficult to gather a meaningful number of responses, with Sian Balson, Healthwatch York manager, saying that they: “Knew it would be challenging to start this work during the pandemic, but we thought ‘if not now, then when?’”
The report comes amidst increasing national focus on health and social care inequality.
In June 2020, NHS Chief Executive, Simon Stevens, wrote a message for NHS staff describing how the Black Lives Matter movement and the Covid-19 pandemic “brought into stark and urgent focus the layered impacts of years of disadvantage and inequality.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has generated renewed focus on disparities in health outcomes, with Public Health England finding that its impact has replicated, and in some cases increased, existing inequalities.
Death rates from COVID-19 were found to be highest in people from Black and Asian ethnic groups.
Jo Madu highlighted the pandemic’s disproportionate impact, as well as the fact that black women are five times more likely to die in childbirth than white women, as reported by Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights, as ongoing examples of inequality in health outcomes.
The Healthwatch York report recognised that it can only be a first step in building stronger engagement with York’s BAME residents, and ultimately improving health and social care experiences and outcomes in York, but expressed a hope that it can be a “catalyst for change.”