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Developing better connections between ethnic minority patients and health care professionals could deliver more positive health care experiences for ethnic minority patients, according to a new study. The results have been published in PLOS ONE.


Responding to reports of discrimination and treatment lacking in empathy, the researchers, led by the University of Westminster and including scientists from Oxford University’s Department of Psychiatry, analysed the social and cultural influences in the experience of ethnic minority psychological and/or cancer patients in 29 studies. This uncovered a multitude of human feelings at play during the care of ethnic minority patients which has been overlooked until now.

The results demonstrated that understanding and reacting to patients with warmth and positivity, just as a family member or friend would, could have a transformative impact on improving care.

The researchers found that patients essentially yearned to have their whole selves and circumstances in which they lived recognised and understood by their practitioners. Or as one participant in one of the studies examined said, professionals who ‘who will listen to us, who will allow us to talk.’

The study shows that warm language and feeling connected is used frequently to describe successful partnerships with professionals. An asylum seeker from Sudan in an included study said, ‘if she has not won my love, some of the things, it’s not easy to talk about it…she’s concerned with my life.’ Others talked about valued professionals as being like their ‘family.’

The study concludes that training in developing better connections with patients could be a way to improve the care for ethnic minority patients.

Contributing author Professor Kam Bhui (Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford) commented: ‘While different patients will want different approaches, the importance of warmth and positivity in health consultations should be explored as a way of improving care, and what gets in the way would be important to investigate further.’

Lead researcher Professor Damien Ridge (University of Westminster) said: ‘Essentially, we found that it is the common human things that connect us and that are important to us, which have been overlooked in the care for ethnic minority patients, and which, if better understood by professionals, could help to improve care. Positively, our findings suggest that practitioners can be trained to draw upon their own emotional lives, to improve connections with their patients who feel disengaged.’

The study ‘A meta-ethnography investigating relational influences on mental health and cancer-related health care interventions for racially minoritised people in the UK’ has been published in the journal PLOS ONE. This work was led by the University of Westminster and involved scientists from the University of Oxford, Queen Mary University of London, King’s College London, and the University of Portsmouth. The research was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR).