Published: 14/07/2005, Volume II5, No. 115 Page 20

Helen Hally, national director, Race for Health

From your feature 'Diverse challenges' it would seem that NHS progress on race equality is very much centre-led (pages 26-29, 30 June). While such leadership is to be welcomed, it is not the complete story.

The Race for Health programme is making a significant contribution.

The primary care trust-run programme is built around 13 participant PCTs up and down the country. Each has signed up to finding ways of delivering real improvements in the health outcomes of black and minority ethnic people, and to spreading their learning to others throughout the country.

From the vantage point of the programme, it is clear that making race equality a reality depends on a combination of things. One is senior leadership. All the PCTs in the Race for Health programme enjoy the personal commitment of their chairs, chief executives and professional executive committee chairs.

Another is community engagement. Race for Health PCTs are all active in this area, many developing new ways to forge partnerships with communities. For example, this weekend Haringey teaching PCT hosted 'Celebrating Diversity', a fair held in association with local community groups, right in the heart of one of London's most diverse areas.

And another element is determination. Race for Health PCTs are committed to embedding race equality into core business. In all areas, whether commissioning, service improvement or recruiting and retaining a workforce, the Race for Health PCTs are taking race equality into the mainstream.

With NHS chief executive Sir Nigel Crisp's leadership and race equality action plan, and the appointment of a national director for equality and human rights, we have a golden opportunity to make real headway. As local communities increasingly demand more from their local health service, now is the time for PCTs to demonstrate how embracing race equality can lead to a better NHS. When we succeed, everyone will benefit.