Letters

A commission set up by the Association of London Government to examine healthcare for London's black and ethnic minority residents has revealed an alarming picture of health and social care agencies failing to deliver culturally appropriate services to those communities, and failing to produce clear measures and targets for reducing inequalities.

The commission has wide representation from local government and the health service, the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Midwives, the Runnymede Trust, St George's Medical School, the Refugee Council, the British Medical Association and the King's Fund.

With a quarter of the capital's population - almost 2 million people - coming from black and minority ethnic communities, race equality should not be a peripheral issue for any social or healthcare organisation. Those communities are over-represented in deprivation indicators, and in greater London they appear to form the majority client group in some needs areas such as mental health. Race seems to be recognised implicitly as a major issue, but not explicitly defined as an area where clear aims and targets for improvement should be sought.

The commission has taken evidence from a wide range of individuals and organisations, and will publish its report with detailed recommendations for health and social care providers early next year.

Themes which have emerged include weaknesses in collecting effective ethnic data, lack of support for the black and minority ethnic voluntary sector and the need to see a more representative make-up among health and social care agencies. We hope the commission's work will contribute to a new, more focused agenda on race equality for our social and health policy institutions.

Cllr Stephen Burke Mark Blake Co-chairs of the ALG Race, Health and Social Exclusion Commission