Minorities group widens remit

The Council for Ethnic Minority Voluntary Organisations (Cemvo) wants to move on from its role as an umbrella body for black and ethnic minority organisations and start working on issues affecting any community facing poverty or deprivation.

Cemvo is currently working with the Patient Choice scheme at the Department of Health on a report into how to ensure all patients get equal access to the information they need to make a decision about how and where they are treated. Cemvo took over the project after the College of Health, the charity set up to provide a voice for patients in the NHS, was unable to continue its work in this area.

The Government has pledged to open the Patient Choice scheme to all by the end of 2005.

"In the past our main focus has been to help ethnic minority communities, but what we're now trying to do is tackle poverty and disadvantage on a wider scale," said Krishna Sarda, chief executive at Cemvo. "Issues such as health and employment need to be tackled in a holistic way that cannot be achieved through defining communities by their ethnicity, rather than their needs."

Cemvo's remit is to devise strategies to ensure that all marginalised groups are able to participate in the Patient Choice programme. This includes promoting the use of audio tapes, ensuring information is supplied in different languages and ensuring that services reflecting religious or cultural needs are available at local hospitals.

It will also run specific campaigns on patient needs, such as one launching this week to lobby for free sickle cell and Thalassemia prescriptions for patients from disadvantaged communities.

"Our work in the health field will reflect an evolution in both our outlook and our services," said Sarda. "If we can show that we can build practical deliverable solutions rather than rhetoric, then I think we have the capacity to make a real and sustainable impact."

He appealed for voluntary organisations working on any area of social deprivation to build partnerships with Cemvo.

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