The 39 recommendations to tackle racism in Birmingham healthcare

The research was begun before the pandemic with the report published this month

A new report into tackling structural racism in healthcare, and how Birmingham can do better, has been released.

Over 39 recommendations were made in the report, discussed at Birmingham City Council’s health and wellbeing board.

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It recommended local councils to close the inequality gap, provide fairer access to health and social care services, and improve health outcomes for Black African and Black Caribbean communities.

Started before pandemic, the research calls for NHS Integrated Care Systems (ICS) to recognise structural racism and discrimination as drivers of ill health, and cultural competence training within healthcare services, the criminal justice system, and the police force.

Birmingham City Council House

What is the summary of the report?

The executive summary of the report read: “Birmingham and Lewisham are global communities that thrive from the many cultures and communities, including large, diverse and vibrant Black African and Black Caribbean populations.

“For too long our Black African and Black Caribbean populations have experienced health inequalities. These have often been ignored and their voices unheard, with these inequalities often accepted as fact rather than an unacceptable wrong to be addressed.

“The review is the first step in a longer journey of transformation and resolution. It shines a light on the unfairness our Black African and Black Caribbean citizens live with every day which damages their health and wellbeing.

“This is the reality for too many citizens who live within our communities. They experience racism and discrimination, ignorance and invisibility existing within structural and institutional processes that underpin and perpetuate these inequalities.

“This is a reality that must change”, it added.

Birmingham skyline

Why is the report so important in Birmingham?

Birmingham is home to 8 per cent of England’s Black African and Black Caribbean populations – around 96,000 – and is the second highest in England.

The Birmingham Race Impact Group (BRIG) called for Birmingham to be the first anti-racist city in the world.

Earlier this year the group highlighted how fewer than one in five paid jobs at Birmingham 2022 had so far gone to people of colour. This was despite pledges to ensure the Commonwealth Games workforce ‘reflected the city’s diversity.’

They have also previously spotlighted the visible lack of people of colour on the boards and executive teams of Birmingham city council, health organisations, universities and major companies.

Birmingham City Council Director of Public Health Dr Justin Varney in the Council Chamber with Leader Ian Ward

What has the city council said about the report?

Dr Justin Varney, director of public health for Birmingham city council, who presented the report, said: “It was very clear in this report the absolute dearth of evidence in many of these areas. The lack of focus research into the needs of specific ethnic communities was a very, very strong finding.

“African Caribbean communities are not the same community as the African communities, there are some really significant differences. We need to be better as public sector organisations in understanding that heritage, culture, and identity are different.

“A person in South African is very different from an Egyptian and we call them all African, because they happen to be on the same continent. It’s the same that we would all be quite affronted if we were called French, or Italian.

“No one was able to go: ‘Here’s the intervention that will solve the problem’. What this report does is show here’s what’s not working.

“So there was a real appetite for the city to step into this innovation space, and to test, and learn, and recognise, sometimes things won’t work and that’s okay. And I think that’s a really important part of taking this forward.”

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