16 February 2022

A new report commissioned by the NHS Race and Health Observatory has revealed the extent of health inequalities for Black, Asian and minority ethnic people in England.

The report, Ethnic Inequalities in Healthcare: A Rapid Evidence Review, reveals inequities across a range of areas, including in mental healthcare, digital access to healthcare, and the NHS workforce.

It is the first of its kind to analyse the ‘overwhelming evidence of ethnic health inequality through the lens of racism’.

Responding to the report, RCSLT chief executive Kamini Gadhok MBE said: “We welcome this crucial report as part of ongoing work to address persistent ethnic inequalities in healthcare.

“The RCSLT is working hard to support the profession to be actively anti-racist, to meet the needs of diverse populations and to identify and address health inequalities with the populations we serve.

“We recognise the challenges outlined in the report and welcome action from leadership within the NHS so that these can be tackled at a systemic and institutional level.”

Investing in interpreter services

The report outlines the need for greater provision of interpreters in NHS Trusts, to ensure they are readily available across services for in person, telephone and digital appointments.

Our members have also identified that this lack of resources is a key barrier to supporting access to speech and language therapy services and the RCSLT has been calling on NHS England and NHS Improvement to take action.

RCSLT health inequalities resources

The RCSLT’s health inequalities guidance and audit tool are available for SLTs to use in their services and aim to develop understanding of health inequalities across the profession. The resources support SLTs to take action to promote equality and equity, and ensure services meet the needs of the populations they serve.

Look out during this year for opportunities to join RCSLT discussions about how the tool is being used. If you’ve already used the tool and would like to provide feedback, please get in touch.

Collecting quality data

In alignment with the recommendations made in this report, the RCSLT guidance is also clear that an essential aspect of the SLT role in addressing health inequalities is good quality data collection and analysis. We are running a pilot to gather information about expanding data collection on the RCSLT Online Outcome Tool (ROOT) to include patients’ ethnicity and other elements of their identity.

The aim is for this to support services to monitor access and clinical outcomes for different ethnic minority populations. Any speech and language therapy service can take part in the pilot, simply email root@rcslt.org for more information.

The pilot is part of the RCSLT’s broader work on supporting the profession to monitor and address inequalities. We will be sharing the learning from this project and using it to inform our wider work in this area.

Becoming actively anti-racist

Following our anti-racism in speech and language therapy workshops last May, we have been looking at how to develop an approach to further develop the programme of learning and cascade training to support SLTs to be actively antiracist. We will also be looking into how these developments could be embedded into NHS mainstream inductions and CPD.

Read the report

A summary of the rapid evidence review and the full review are available to read on the NHS Race and Health Observatory website.