The Health Care Professional’s Role in Creating Equitable Patient Outcomes

An essay by Lord Simon Woolley that was published in BMJ calls on the medical community to speak up on how failed drug laws disproportionately harm black communities.

Current

drug

policies

in the United Kingdom need to be reformed for equitable patient outcomes. These policies are ineffective and continue to bolster systemic racism, according to a recent peer-reviewed publication in the BMJ.

Author Lord Simon Woolley, founder of Operation Black Vote and Trustee of the charity Police Now and member of the House of Lords in the UK, highlighted the inequalities present in current drug legislation. He called out the racism inherent in drug policy and urged doctors to speak out against these restrictive and unequal laws.

Woolley specified that the Misuse of Drugs Act, which was enacted 50 years ago and provides the main legislation for UK drug laws, has failed to lessen illicit drug supply and harms Black communities.

Woolley pointed to a recent independent review written by Professor Dame Carol Black that revealed the use of illegal drugs has increased across all sectors of society and detailed the issues within the treatment system. In addition, Black’s review reported that the drug-related death rate is one of the highest in Europe.

Data from this research reveals that Blacks are more likely to be stopped and searched for suspected drug usage and possession, and are more likely to be arrested, charged, and imprisoned for drug offences.

Legislation that fails to protect its medical community and citizens has negative impacts on  community health. “It creates anxiety, stress, and alienation that contribute to the high levels of mental health harm experienced across our black communities,” Woolley wrote.

Woolley and 60 of his fellow parliamentarians have additionally signed a statement to that effect, calling on medical and public health communities to show their support of legislation reforms that prioritize equitable health outcomes.

Moreover, Woolley stressed that a thorough and objective assessment of the effects of the Misuse of Drugs Act – and examining the whole picture of drug policy – is critical. “It must also consider in detail the options for alternative approaches, including the growing body of evidence indicating benefit in both decriminalization of people who take drugs and legal regulation of non-medical drug supplies worldwide,” he said.

Everyone’s voice must be heard when it comes to creating health care policies that support equitable outcomes. The medical community can facilitate positive change by being vocal about discussions related to drug policy’s role in perpetuating health disparities.

“Whatever our views on how we can do drug policy better, without a serious open and adult discussion - and without the key medical bodies actively supporting that debate - we will face more decades of stagnation and failure,” he concluded.1

Reference

  • 50 years of failure in UK drug policy must end. News Release. EurekAlert! September 29, 2021. Accessed October 21, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/929805. Accessed October 1, 2021.