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RCOG responds to Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report

News 1 April 2021

The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities have published its report The report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities.

In response to the report, the RCOG's Race Equality Taskforce Co-Chairs, Dr Edward Morris, Dr Christine Ekechi, and Dr Ranee Thakar, have issued this statement:

"As co-chairs of the Race Equality Taskforce, we will continue to strive towards an honest, open and evidence-based discussion of race, racism and ethnic inequalities in women’s healthcare, both in the RCOG’s work and throughout wider society. These issues are complex, systemic and deeply rooted ​both in ​the history of the UK and of ​our specialty. ​For meaningful progress, an acknowledgement of the presence and impact of systemic racism on the lives of Black, Asian and other ethnic minority women, is imperative. 

"We support the report’s recognition of the urgent need for continued research into the causes underlying the inequality in maternal mortality risk, which is vital if we are to find meaningful solutions. Bold, evidence-based action taken now will mean fewer women and their families are impacted in the future. We were disappointed the report did not note similar concerning trends evident in infant birth outcomes, with Black women, for instance, ​being up to twice as likely to suffer a stillbirth than white women. We continue to urge the UK Government to adopt an ambitious target to reduce disparities in stillbirth and maternal mortality. 

"The racial disparity in maternal mortality is the most devastating consequence of ​a wider trend towards poorer outcomes that we know permeates through all aspects of women’s health care​ ​and throughout their lives. Only last week the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority published a report highlighting ethnic inequalities in access to and outcomes of fertility treatment, which we know can have a significant and devastating impact on women’s lives.

"Research shows that racial bias can play a part in these poorer health outcomes, negatively influencing diagnosis and treatment options and indirectly affecting medical interactions​ and experiences of care. It is therefore vital that the UK governments, the NHS, clinicians and the public understand and recognise the presence and impact of implicit biases if we are to eliminate health disparities in the UK. We are adamant that from medical school onwards, positive behaviours are embedded and clinicians are aware of the ways implicit and explicit racial bias can influence practice and health outcomes. 

"The Race Equality Taskforce also works to address discrimination and disadvantage that impact the careers of our membership. This includes working to reduce the ethnic attainment gap in medical education, which research suggests is the result of persistent inequities throughout medical education and training​, resulting in reduced diversity at the top of our profession.

"We must ​and will continue to recognise and listen to the experiences of racialised ​and minoritised women and young girls as we continually endeavour towards significant progress in ​the improvement of health outcomes in the UK.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

For media enquiries please contact the RCOG press office on +44 (0)7986 183167 or email pressoffice@rcog.org.uk. 

Read more about the racial disparities in women’s healthcare, including the impact of racial bias and discrimination, in our position statement here

Find out more about the Race Equality Taskforce here.