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Lack of racial diversity within the palliative medicine workforce: does it affect our patients?
  1. Heena Khiroya1 and
  2. Derek Willis2
  1. 1 Department of Palliative Medicine, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, London, UK
  2. 2 Department of Palliative Medicine, University of Chester, Chester, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Heena Khiroya, Department of Palliative Medicine, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, London, UK; heenakhiroya{at}

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Health in the UK has stopped improving and progress in reducing health inequalities has been negative.1 The COVID-19 pandemic has further emphasised poorer outcomes in health for people from socioeconomically deprived and ethnic minority communities.2 There is an urgent public health need to consider the effects of structural discrimination, both among our patients and our staff. Creation of a workforce that reflects the patient population will go some way towards tackling health inequities. A palliative medicine workforce that reflects the diverse population that it serves will understand their needs through lived experience and be better equipped to meet those needs.

Inequalities within the workforce

Within medicine inequalities along the career ladder exist from the bottom to the top. Schemes to widen participation into medical school have improved gender disparity and increased the number of ethnic minority students, but there has been little progress in recruiting those from socioeconomically deprived backgrounds.3 Beyond medical school, the discrepancies in class and job opportunities continue. There is a direct association between trainees’ socioeconomic characteristics, academic ability and career choices, with trainees from more deprived backgrounds pursuing less competitive specialties.4 Palliative medicine has very few training posts and is comparably competitive to enter.5

Data looking at the palliative medicine workforce in the UK show a female predominance and have also been examined in terms of age and the proportion of people who work less than full time.6 However, there are no published data on ethnicity of the workforce. This may not be considered to be an issue because we are all trained to provide culturally sensitive palliative care. But it is an issue, because without …

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  • Twitter @HeenaKhiroya

  • Contributors HK identified the topic and wrote the first draft. DW made significant contributions to the final manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.