A report out today suggests that Covid policies in the UK had a disproportionally impact on the end of life for ethnic minorities.

Specialist palliative care services response to ethnic minority groups with COVID-19: equal but inequitable – an observational study found that visiting restrictions may have had a disproportionate adverse impact in those ethnic minority groups that would traditionally have large numbers of family members involved in providing care, support and/or decision making, and where it was important for the wider community to visit and support in times of illness.

Visiting restrictions may have not only removed patients’ psychosocial support and advocates, but also their personal and professional translators; for many, their only means of communication while COVID-related policies prohibiting physical contact with loved ones after death, may have particularly impacted ethnic minority groups who are more likely to conduct compulsory after death rituals such as prayer in large groups with touching and washing of the body.

Professor Catherine Walshe, from the International Observatory on End of Life Care, Lancaster University, and co-author said:

“This important research has made it clear that one size really does not fit all when it comes to the provision of palliative and end of life care. Whilst those involved in providing care were working hard to be equitable in their approach, it is important to recognise that such approaches can impact in different ways and create inequity where none were intended”

COVID-19 has disproportionately affected ethnic minority groups and these latest findings suggest “one size fits all” policies introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic may have adversely impacted these groups disproportionately, causing distress that services struggled to manage.

The research highlights that during the COVID-19 period, systemic steps, including equality impact assessments, are urgently needed to address inequity at the end of life for these patients and families. Formal safeguards and mitigation against the negative impact of emergency policies on these groups, beyond a sole focus on individualised care, is urgently needed.

Dr Sabrina Bajwah, Clinical Senior Lecturer at King’s College London, and lead author said:

“We have known for a long time that those from ethnic minority groups are less likely to have a good death and are less likely to receive palliative and hospice care. This important research highlights the disproportionate distress caused by UK wide policies to these already vulnerable groups at the end of life during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst policies introduced rapidly during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic may have been justified by the legitimate aim of protecting the general public, we now need to urgently assess the impact of these and future policies on patients and families from ethnic minority groups. Formal safeguards and mitigation against the negative impact of these policies on these groups, beyond a sole focus on individualised care, is urgently needed. We provide clear recommendations for all underserved groups which are relevant for all healthcare specialities and settings dedicated to reducing health inequality.”


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