The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the extent and impact of ethnic disparities in health to communities, health services and government.
The pandemic has also demonstrated that the limited availability of ethnicity data and the quality of the data are reducing understanding of, ethnic inequalities, and the ability to identify effective responses. Current challenges range from the absence of ethnicity data in essential data sources such as death registrations (from which mortality statistics are derived), to poor coverage in primary care data, outdated ethnicity codes used within the NHS compared with those used in the 2011 and 2021 censuses, and systematic differences in ethnicity coding between White and minority ethnic groups. Effectively using currently available ethnicity data and improving the quality of the data are vital for identifying and addressing ethnic disparities in health.
For this report we have analysed the quality and consistency of ethnicity coding within widely used health datasets, in order to inform users of ethnicity data and identify the actions needed to improve the quality of the underlying data.
Along with providing insights for data users, the report sets out recommendations for policy-makers and organisations that generate and regulate health data.
Scobie S, Spencer J, Raleigh V (2021) Ethnicity coding in English health service datasets. Research report, Nuffield Trust