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Survey on how NHS refers to black and minority ethnic groups seeks acronym alternatives

Body set up to tackle health inequalities is committed to avoiding terms such as BAME and BME
Picture shows a woman of Asian ethnicity typing on a laptop

Body set up to tackle health inequalities is committed to avoiding terms such as BAME and BME

A public survey about how to refer to black, Asian and minority ethnic groups collectively is being conducted by the NHS Race and Health Observatory .

The independent expert body, established by the NHS to examine health inequalities experienced by black and minority ethnic communities in England, said it is committed to avoiding initials and acronyms such as BME (black and minority ethnic) or BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic), which sit uneasily with some.

Survey based on ethnicity categories used in 2021 census

‘We want to use terminology that

Body set up to tackle health inequalities is committed to avoiding terms such as BAME and BME

Picture shows a woman of Asian ethnicity typing on a laptop
Picture: iStock

A public survey about how to refer to black, Asian and minority ethnic groups collectively is being conducted by the NHS Race and Health Observatory.

The independent expert body, established by the NHS to examine health inequalities experienced by black and minority ethnic communities in England, said it is committed to avoiding initials and acronyms such as BME (black and minority ethnic) or BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic), which sit uneasily with some.

Survey based on ethnicity categories used in 2021 census

‘We want to use terminology that means something to the people we work with – whether that's patients, staff, carers, or the broader communities who come into contact with the NHS,’ the body said.

It added that there will sometimes be a need to refer to all communities other than the white British ethnic group.

The four-week survey, which closes on 10 August, will gather views on which collective terminology should be used in such instances. The short, anonymous questionnaire is based on ethnicity categories used in the 2021 census, with participants given an option to self-identify where they do not identify with existing classifications.

The observatory will follow up with a series of discussions to explore the preferences recorded in the survey.

Findings will be reported in the autumn

Senior policy and strategy lead at the observatory Sam Rodger 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.’

He said that in finding the right terminology the observatory wanted to be led by the communities it works with rather than imposing views. It will report its findings in the autumn.


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