13 July 2021

NHS Race and Health Observatory launch consultation on ethnicity terminology

The NHS Race and Health Observatory has today issued a new survey for stakeholders and communities to engage over preferred terminology for describing ethnic identity.

Open for four weeks, the survey is based on ethnicity categories used in the 2021 Census, with participants given an option to self-identify where they don’t relate to existing classifications.

The aim of the survey is to seek stakeholder views on the collective terminology used to describe Black, Asian and other minority ethnic groups.

The independent race and health body is already committed to using specific terms where possible and avoids initialisms and acronyms such as BME or Bame.

Even so, the Observatory recognises there will sometimes be a need to refer to all communities who are not part of the White British ethnic group. This survey will explore preferences for this collective terminology.

The survey will also explore whether places of work influence preferences depending on whether someone works in the health and care system.

Once the survey ends, the Observatory will hold a series of roundtable discussions to explore people’s preferences more deeply.

Sam Rodger, Senior Strategy and Policy Lead, NHS Race and Health Observatory, said:

“Language is powerful, and the terms we use when talking about ethnic identity in healthcare can have a real impact on communities. Using simplistic language can lead to grouping together diverse communities and limiting the impact of healthcare interventions. For the Observatory, it is important that we take the opportunity to consult with stakeholders on how language is used in the work that we do.

“While it may be difficult to find language and terminology that is welcomed by everybody, we want to be led by the communities we work with instead of imposing our views on others. This is an important step in informing how we speak about ethnic identity, but we also accept that language evolves, and this will not be the end of the conversation. We will always be open to having frank discussions with the communities we serve.”

Following feedback from the survey and main findings from focus groups, the Observatory will look to adopt the language preferred by the majority of respondents and report on the outcome this Autumn.

The link to the survey is here and closes on 10 August.