Ethnic minorities struggle to get the right healthcare and the outcome can be worse than for other patients, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has said.
Health bosses are meeting in London to discuss ways to tackle race inequality in the service as new guidance is published on the issue.
Currently, certain communities are disproportionately affected by specific problems - for example people from Indian backgrounds are 50% more likely to die from coronary heart disease.
Cynthia Bower, chief executive of the CQC, is the keynote speaker at the Race for Health summit.
She said: “The NHS has a legal responsibility to promote race equality and tackle discrimination, both as an employer and as a provider or commissioner of health services. Even so, studies continue to show that people from minority ethnic groups have more difficulty accessing healthcare and, when they do, the experience and the outcomes for them are not as good as for other people.”
She said ways to tackle racial inequality would be a “major focus” for the regulator when judging performance by health trusts.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said a number of schemes are in place to help ensure equality, including guidance on how to record patients’ ethnic background to identify risk areas.
She added: “A new guide for improving equality data across all equality strands, plus language and carer status, will be produced in early 2010.”