Background Studies have repeatedly found that Minority Ethnic Groups (MEGs) are underrepresented among users of Specialist Palliative Care Services (SPCS). However, there is little knowledge about referrals to specialist psychological services in oncology and palliative care. From 2009 to 2010 referrals of MEGs to the Specialist Psychological Service for Oncology and Palliative Care (SPSOPC) within the Specialist Palliative Care Team (SPCT) in East Berkshire accounted for only 6% of total referrals. The MEG population in this area is between 9–40% so this would appear to reflect an under-referral of MEGs to SPSOPC during this time.
Aims To audit all SPSOPC referrals to identify the composition (demographic, diagnostic, and reason for referral) of MEG patients referred to the team. To explore which healthcare professionals from primary care, acute care and the SPCT had referred patients into the service from April 2010 to March 2011.
Results Overall referrals of MEGs to SPSOPC increased slightly to 8% during 2010-2011, which is still less than expected for this area. The reason for referral to SPSOPC was similar for MEGs and other population groups. This would suggest that there remains an under referral of MEG patients to SPSOPC in this area. While 50% of referrals were made by SPCT, only 4% of referrals to SPOPC were made by a GP or a District Nurse.
Conclusion The study highlights the need to increase awareness of the availability and remit of Specialist Psychological Services for MEGs in referring healthcare professionals and potential clients. Further research with GPs and District Nurses is required to explore the reasons behind low referrals of MEGs to SPSOPC. Greater understanding of specialist services could help general service providers tailor their care more appropriately to the community that they serve.
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