Palliative care for patients with COVID-19: Does ethnicity make a difference?

28th June 2021

People from ethnic minority and deprived socioeconomic groups receive suboptimal palliative and end-of-life care. People from ethnic minority groups and deprived socioeconomic backgrounds have worse outcomes from COVID-19. A small, single-centre study from the UK suggested that patients with COVID-19 from an ethnic minority background may have delayed referral to palliative care compared to those from White ethnic groups.

Researchers based at the Cicely Saunders Institute decided to examine associations between ethnicity and deprivation with timing of palliative care referral for inpatients with COVID-19. They looked at data for patients with COVID-19 who were referred to a hospital palliative care service across two London hospitals between February and May 2020.

A total of 334 patients were included. 119 (36%) were from a non-White ethnic group; most commonly Black British (77, 23%) and Asian British (26, 8%). A longer time between admission and palliative care referral was associated with male gender and lower levels of socioeconomic deprivation but not ethnicity.  This large service evaluation showed no evidence that patients from ethnic minority or more deprived socioeconomic groups had a longer time to palliative care referral.

Equity in delivery of care for patients with COVID-19 is essential, especially for those groups disproportionately affected including ethnic minority groups and those from more deprived socioeconomic groups. Ongoing monitoring of meaningful data is needed to ensure equitable delivery of services.

Bajwah S, Edmonds P, Yorganci E, Chester R, Russell K, Lovell N, Marsh L, Sleeman KE. The association between ethnicity, socioeconomic deprivation and receipt of hospital-based palliative care for people with Covid-19: A dual centre service evaluation. Palliat Med. 2021 Jun 8:2692163211022959. doi: 10.1177/02692163211022959. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34098811.