Ethnic Minority Cancer Awareness Month highlights the needs to improve end of life care for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities

by Ian Gittens
Senior Project Manager (Diversity)

Ian Gittens, Senior Project Manager (Diversity)

According to estimates, 1 in 3 people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. This statistic starkly illustrates that cancer is an issue for everyone.

However, during Ethnic Minority Cancer Awareness Month, it is important to note that awareness of cancer and the uptake of some cancer services are generally lower among people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities. More significantly, BAME people tend to be diagnosed when the disease is more advanced.

This July also marks a year since Marie Curie published our Palliative and end of life care for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups in the UK report.  In this report, we note that, as ethnic diversity in the UK dramatically increases, so does the demand for improved palliative and end of life care for people from these communities.

The BAME population is growing, yet their access to palliative and end of life care is low and those who actually receive it report poorer experiences. It is important that the needs of members of the BAME community are considered as end of life care provision is being adapted to better fit individual needs and improve individual outcomes.

How Marie Curie is meeting the challenge

Marie Curie makes it a priority to address the needs of BAME communities with cancer and other terminal illnesses in the way we deliver our services. This includes:

  • using service users’ feedback to drive service improvements

  • focusing on access, quality of care and outcomes for people from all backgrounds

  • building relationships with local BAME communities

  • removing  barriers to access to palliative care

  • sharing effective practice and lessons learned from our work.

We are seeing positive impacts, particularly in our work with BAME communities in Cardiff and Bradford. In Cardiff we have launched a three-year project, funded by the Big Lottery Fund, to increase the number of BAME people accessing palliative care and we have already seen a significant increase in numbers accessing the service.

In Bradford, our hospice accommodates the wishes of patients and families from all backgrounds. In a recent blog, Robena Sheikh describes how the hospice was sensitive to her husband’s needs when he was admitted in December 2009. We aim to continue to make our services easier to access by people from all sections of the community with a terminal diagnosis.

For more information on diversity and inclusion at Marie Curie, please visit our website and follow us on Twitter at @MarieCuriePA and @MarieCurieEOLC.