The present anti-racial discrimination legislation in the United Kingdom is embodied in the 1976 Race Relations Act. In essence this Act attempts to avoid any form of direct or indirect discrimination on the basis of racial or ethnic origin. However, health professionals are acutely aware that there are important racial differences in disease, some of which are, in fact, not racial but merely associated with social deprivation, poor housing and, of course, the incapacity to speak English. These new findings present the medical profession, in the climate of scarce resources, with the challenge of meeting these needs without discriminating in favour of, or against, individuals on the basis of their race. This is because there are few provision in the 1976 Act to allow for such discrimination, even when it is for an ethnic group's advantage. The dilemmas this raises for health professionals who are involved in planning services for ethnic minorities are discussed.
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