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The UKCC Code of Professional Conduct for nurses, midwives and health visitors stresses the need to have an understanding of the social and cultural determinants of health and illness There is as yet little evidence of what might constitute good practice in this area and it is difficult to ascertain why this basic philosophy is not translated into action Indeed, the nursing and midwifery professions’ ability to deliver adequate and appropriate health care more generally to Britain's multiracial, multicultural population has been questioned This literature review presents evidence which strongly suggests that although we are living in a multicultural society patients from minority ethnic groups are additionally disadvantaged because the initiatives by nurses, and others working in the National Health Service, to meet their health care needs are inadequate and often inappropriate