unconscious bias leads to inequities in medical treatment between rich and poor (study)

Par : LIANG Chen| Key words : United Kingdom, inequality, health | Updated on 23-08-2022

Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) is celebrated across the country as a beacon of health. However, an academic report points out that the NHS principle of “equal access for equal needs” is not respected in English emergency services because of unconscious bias.

Healthcare professionals may unconsciously assign a lower clinical priority to patients from disadvantaged neighborhoods compared to those from more affluent neighborhoods, according to a study by academics at the University of Manchester.

By analyzing national data on patients arriving by ambulance at the accident and emergency departments of all major English hospitals, researchers found that patients in deprived areas were forced to wait longer for treatment and received less complex treatment than those in affluent neighborhoods, even with the same health problems in the same hospital.

“The inequalities observed were present even when accident and emergency departments were less crowded, indicating that the inequalities are not limited to periods when staff are under greater pressure,” adds the study. .

It is possible that unconscious bias explains why lower priority was given to patients from disadvantaged neighborhoods, the researchers suggested.

The results of this study, published in the Journal of Health Economics, are the first to advance evidence of income-related inequalities in access to timely and appropriate emergency care in England.

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