Background: Ethnic/racial inequalities in access to and quality of healthcare have been repeatedly documented in the US. Although there is some evidence of inequalities in England, research is not so extensive. We examine ethnic inequalities in use of primary and secondary health services, and in outcomes of care, in England.
Methods: We analyse four waves of the Health Survey for England, a representative population survey with ethnic minority oversamples. Outcome measures include use of primary (GP and dental) and secondary (out-patient, day-care and in-patient) healthcare services and clinical outcomes of care (controlled, uncontrolled and undiagnosed) for three conditions – hypertension, raised cholesterol, and diabetes.
Results: Ethnic minority respondents were not less likely to use GP services. For example, the adjusted odds ratios for Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi versus white respondents were 1.29 (95% Confidence Intervals 1.07-1.54), 1.32 (1.10-1.58) and 1.35 (1.10-1.65) respectively. Similarly, there were no ethnic inequalities for the clinical outcomes of care for hypertension and raised cholesterol, and, on the whole, no inequalities in outcomes of care for diabetes. There were ethnic inequalities in access to hospital services, and marked inequalities in use of dental care.
Conclusion: Ethnic inequalities in access to healthcare and the outcomes of care for three conditions (hypertension, raised cholesterol and diabetes), for which treatment is largely provided in primary care, appear to be minimal in England. While inequalities may exist for other conditions and other health care settings, particularly internationally, the implication is that ethnic inequalities in healthcare are minimal within NHS primary care.