Posted by Sophie Angwin-Thornes, Associate
World Patient Safety Day: what is being done about healthcare inequality?
Sophie Angwin-Thornes explores how World Patient Safety Day can be used to highlight inequalities in outcomes from our healthcare system.
World Patient Safety Day in September 2021 is an official World Health Organisation (WHO) campaign that aims to engage all those involved with healthcare globally about patient safety. As a clinical negligence solicitor who witnesses a lot of avoidable harm caused by medical errors, it is very encouraging to see the topic of patient safety on a global stage.
I follow closely the commitments made by NHS England in the field of patient safety and in its 2021 patient safety strategy update, where it has set out a new commitment to address inequalities in patient safety. NHS England has specifically highlighted safety issues faced by those with a learning disability and those with a learning disability from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) group.
The 2019 annual report from The Learnings Disabilities Mortality Review (LeDeR) shockingly revealed that in 2019, people with a learning disability from BAME groups “died disproportionality at younger ages than white British people. Of those who died in childhood (ages 4 to 17 years), 43% were from BAME groups”. The report called for a continued focus on the deaths of all adults and children from BAME groups is required.
I do not profess to be an expert on racial and disability inequality in healthcare, and from the outside it is hard to breakdown exactly the steps being taken by the NHS to make improvements. It is clear that this is no simple task and to look at healthcare in isolation maybe futile, when systemic racism exists in society.
However, it is encouraging to see the topic of healthcare inequality being mentioned in 2021’s patient safety update and the commitment to reduce the worrying statistics the LeDeR report revealed. I have no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has also further highlighted healthcare inequality as it is well publicised that those most vulnerable in our society were the most impacted by the pandemic.
By World Patient Safety Day putting patient safety on the global stage, I hope it can assist with highlighting inequality in healthcare provision and further assist healthcare providers’ commitment to increase the scale and pace in tackling inequality.
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