HC Deb 16 April 1991 vol 189 cc148-9W
25. Mr. Rowe

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the Government are doing to improve access to health care for people from ethnic minorities.

Mr. Dorrell

The Government are committed to promoting equality of opportunity for ethnic minorities in the provision of health services. This involves positive action to take account of differences in the incidence of disease, and in language and culture.

We have launched a number of initiatives to improve the quality of health care for ethnic minorities and to promote access to information on health promotion and the health services available: Some examples are: funding a report by the National Association of Health Authorities to advise health authorities on how to improve services for ethnic minorities; funding a seminar in 1988 for NHS senior managers on delivering services for ethnic minorities; piloting, through the Asian mother and baby campaign, the use of link workers to help overcome language and cultural barriers to communication; spending £500,000 a year to produce materials to improve access to health services; funding projects to develop good practice guidance to help improve access to services; and recently funding a compendium of good practice in family health service work.

The NHS reforms establish each health authority's responsibility to secure appropriate health care for all its population. Each health authority will assess the health needs of its population and plan services accordingly, ensuring that the services available are both relevant, and accessible, to the whole local population including members of ethnic minorities.

The 1991 census will include, for the first time, a question on ethnic origin and it is proposed to include equivalent information on patients in the data collected by health authorities. This will enable health authorities to plan and target services effectively. The Department is also funding the establishment of a database on ethnic minority health which will gather information on good practice, on developments in services for ethnic minorities, and epidemiological data. These sources of information taken together will help health service planners to assess the health needs of ethnic minorities, to plan appropriate services, and to monitor the effectiveness of services.

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