Black and minority ethnic people are not getting the primary healthcare they need, a government report has shown.

A review commissioned by health secretary Alan Johnson into why people from minority ethnic backgrounds are less satisfied with GP services than white people found there were problems with language and culture, poor health status, the quality of GP services and differing expectations.

Review group chair Mayur Lakhani said: "My overall impression is that a significant proportion of BME patients are struggling to get the real healthcare they need.

"They are afraid to complain about poor services and unable to exert real influence on improving local services. There is therefore an urgent need to build trust between BME communities and their local NHS."

Part of the blame lay with PCTs' poor commissioning and procurement, he said.

Among the recommendations, the report calls for PCTs and practices to collect data on ethnicity. PCTs should use the world class commissioning competencies to strengthen their approach to engagement and increase choice.

Professor Lakhani, a Leicester GP and former Royal College of GPs chair, told HSJ that the review's findings had shocked him. "I am fairly familiar with this area and I was concerned about what I found and how much there was to do," he said.

However, he detected real willingness in PCTs to make the necessary changes to improve the overall quality of commissioning and service provision. "The next stage review and world class commissioning has changed the context. It really is time to solve this," he said.

Mr Johnson welcomed the report and announced a national support programme, led by Michael Warburton, to drive improvements.

The DH and Healthcare Commission also published a survey revealing that BME people are likely to be less positive about their experience of the NHS.

Healthcare Commission methods and research lead Veena Raleigh said: "The reasons behind these differences are complex. However, the results are significant. Services should take note of these differences and work to have a better understanding of the needs and concerns of their local communities in order to deliver patient-centred services."

What the DH and Healthcare Commission found

  • BME groups were less positive about choice and access than white people

  • They were less positive about the information they received

  • They waited longer in accident and emergency to speak to a nurse or doctor

  • Some groups had mixed responses, with black people reporting some better experiences, but Asian and Asian British groups consistently reported problems