Why is it important to record ethnic group data?

Analysis of this data will help us to understand racialised health inequalities. In response to data analysis, we will take action to ensure services are delivered equitably.

Having accurate population data assists services to plan and contribute to the reduction of health inequalities in our systems and society. Scottish Government Ministers have asked for this data to be collected following a recommendation from the Expert Reference Group on COVID and Ethnicity (ERG). It also forms an important part of meeting national and health board equalities duties.

Reducing health inequalities is a public health priority in Scotland. Making sure that our services are delivered fairly to everyone who needs them is an important part of the professional code for Healthcare Support Workers and Registrants of Professional Bodies.

Message from the Chief Nursing Officer on ethnicity data capture

Don’t we already record ethnic group data in other health systems?

In Scotland, we do not currently have a high level of ethnic group recording in health records.

This means that any analysis is reliant on data linkage from a number of sources. The data that we do have becomes less reliable in younger people (under 50) as they are less likely to have hospital records which is where ethnic group is most consistently recorded.

Research has shown that COVID-19 has had a disproportionate effect on people from ethnic minority backgrounds in the UK. The vaccination programmes for COVID-19 and flu are likely to reach over 4 million people in Scotland this autumn and winter.

Improved ethnic group data will help us assess the impact of vaccinations on at-risk groups and address inequalities in provision.

Do I ask everyone ‘what is your ethnic group’?

If the data has already been provided a flag will appear on the Vaccination Management Tool to show a record has been made.

How can someone change their ethnic group?

It will be possible for people to change their ethnic group via the online citizen portal booking and rebooking system or the National Vaccination Helpline.

Information on how to do this will be on NHS Inform.

Why are there so many ethnic groups to choose from?

The ethnic group categories used are the ones developed for the Census 2022.

The Census team did a lot of research with people to decide which categories to use, these have been agreed by the Scottish Parliament.

Using these categories means it will be easier to link to the Census when it is available.

What if I can’t see an option for the person’s ethnic group?

If there isn’t an option listed for the person’s stated ethnic group (such as White Welsh, White English, White Northern Irish, etc.) then this can be recorded manually through the write-in option.

For example, ‘White English’ can be entered by selecting White -> Other White Ethnic Group -> and then typing in ‘White English’.

Who decides what ethnic group is recorded for a person?

It is for the person being vaccinated to indicate what their ethnic group is.

A healthcare worker must not decide what answer to give on behalf of the person.

Do people really want to give their ethnic group?

It is important that everyone is asked the question “what is your ethnic group?”.

People are often asked for their ethnic group and most people will be happy to answer the question.

Some people may prefer not to give their ethic group or don’t know what their ethnic group is. There is an option ‘prefer not to say or don’t know’.

How is ethnic group data used?

Data will be used for statistics, research and public health planning.

Ethnic group data will be stored securely in line with data protection rules and will not be linked to Covid status or certification.

A person’s ethnic group will not be shared with the police, immigration or criminal justice authorities.

When in the appointment is the question to be asked?

It is part of the Health Screening and Assessment stage in the Turas Vaccination Management tool.

The questions are asked at the screening stage as this is the only place in the vaccination journey where we can guarantee there is a direct discussion with the patient – in some settings and service delivery models patients are pre-registered to clinics. 

Will asking this question take extra time during vaccination appointments?

Appointment length can vary for many reasons, for example, if someone is anxious about vaccination, has a learning disability, or other disability. This is individualised, person-centred care.

Ethnic group data will help us to tackle inequalities.

Where can I get more information and training on equalities issues?

All health boards have mandatory equalities training as part of induction and are supported by equality and diversity leads.

Many health systems already routinely collect ethnic group data.

There are no different requirements or training for asking a child their ethnic group.

Supporting Information

You can see the Census 2022 questions here:

Question development | Scotland's Census (scotlandscensus.gov.uk)

Health Care Support Workers Standards include elements relating to Equalities and Diversity for administrative duties and direct care:

Review of Healthcare Support Worker (HCSW) Induction Standards (scot.nhs.uk)

Equality and Diversity leads contact details:

NHS Scotland Board Equality and Diversity Contacts - NHS Health Scotland

There are also a number of relevant resources available on TURAS Learn:

Equality and diversity zone | Turas | Learn (nhs.scot)

The Charity Commission also have a resource on social inclusion:

The Charity Commission The Promotion of Social Inclusion (publishing.service.gov.uk)