Can greater VCSE involvement and community input to services address the health inequalities suffered by Black, Asian and minority ethnic people “at every stage from birth to death”? 

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16 February, 2022

The scale of health inequalities faced by ethnic minorities is devastating, and the healthcare system is failing minority ethnic patients across the whole of England, including Bristol. Radical measures are needed, according to the largest review of its kind, commissioned by the NHS Race and Health Observatory, and led by the University of Manchester in association with the University of Sheffield. The full findings document persistent harm to the health of patients on a daily basis.  

“By drawing together the evidence, and plugging the gaps where we find them, we have made a clear and overwhelming case for radical action on race inequity in our healthcare system,” said Habib Naqvi, director of the NHS Race and Health Observatory, an independent body established by the NHS in 2020 to investigate health inequalities in England. 

The review found that, despite “clear”, “convincing” and “persistent” evidence that ethnic minorities are being failed, and repeated pledges of action since the health observatory started its work in 2020, there has been no significant change. The independent body says urgent action is needed now to tackle the “overwhelming”, “vast” and “widespread” inequity in every aspect of healthcare, from maternity to mental health services.  

The Observatory concludes that inequalities in access to, experiences of, and outcomes of healthcare in the NHS “are rooted in experiences of structural, institutional and interpersonal racism”. The health of minority ethnic people in England has suffered due to a lack of appropriate treatment, poor quality or discriminatory treatment by NHS staff, and delays in seeking help for health issues “due to fear of racist treatment from NHS healthcare professionals”. 

Co-author Sarah Salway, a professor of public health at the University of Sheffield says 

“As a nation we are proud of our NHS. It is one of the few healthcare services worldwide that enjoys a reputation for quality care that is free at the point of access, so it can be difficult to discuss how things may be failing. This report, however, gives us the opportunity to identify how we can do things better, for a healthier and fairer society.” 


The VCSE sector has a key part to play in advocating on behalf of communities in Bristol, and in helping to secure opportunities for service users to have direct access to healthcare policy makers. 

From July 2022 the NHS is changing, with new Integrated Care Systems (ICS) replacing existing partnerships, and government mandating the NHS to form alliances with VCSE organisations to tackle long-term inequalities in access and treatment. These changes present an opportunity for VCSE organisations to shine a spotlight on their work across the healthcare sector and demonstrate how they are already making health services more accessible, inclusive and effective.  

Voscur is currently working with NHS England/I and the West of England Civil Society Partnership to develop our regional VCSE Alliance. The Alliance will have representatives from organisations at all levels across the sector, and will work with the new regional Healthier Together ICS from July onwards. To discuss working with the Alliance, please contact

If your organisation works in the field of health and wellbeing and you want to hear more about how you can involve your community in service planning and delivery, on the 28 April 2022 Voscur is running a course called ‘Community Planning to Co-production – Involving Your Community’. Find out more about the content and how to register, on the VCSE Academy.  Organisations from any other field in the VCSE sector are also welcome. 

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