BACKGROUND: The disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on ethnic minority populations has recently highlighted the necessity of maintaining accessible, routinely collected, ethnicity data within healthcare services. Despite 25 years of supportive legislation and policy in the UK, ethnicity data recording remains inconsistent, which has hindered needs assessment, evaluation and decision-making. We describe efforts to improve the completeness, quality and usage of ethnicity data within our regional health board, NHS Lothian.
METHODS: The Ethnicity Coding Task Force was established with the aim of increasing ethnicity recording within NHS Lothian secondary care services from 3 to 90% over 3 years. We subsequently analysed these data specifically focusing on Accident and Emergency (A&E) use by ethnic group.
RESULTS: We achieved 91%, 85% and 93% completeness of recording across inpatients, outpatients and A&E, respectively. Analysis of A&E data found a mixed pattern of attendance amongst ethnic minority populations and did not support the commonly perceived relationship between lower GP registration and higher A&E use within this population.
CONCLUSIONS: We identified a successful approach to increase ethnicity recording within a regional health board, which could potentially be useful in other settings, and demonstrated the utility of these data in informing assessment of healthcare delivery and future planning.