• Wednesday, February 28, 2024

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Survey urges health staff to listen to ethnic minority patients for better care

The study was carried out following reports of discrimination and treatment lacking in empathy

Patients want health staff to listen to them and allow them to talk, the survey found (Representational image: iStock)

By: Pramod Thomas

Better connections between ethnic minority patients and health care professionals can provide more positive health care experience, a study published on Wednesday (10) said.

Patients want health staff to listen to them and allow them to talk, the survey found.

Analysis of the social and cultural influences in the experience of ethnic minority psychological and/or cancer patients in 29 studies showed that patients essentially yearned to have their whole selves and circumstances in which they lived recognised and understood by their practitioners.

“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,” said Prof Damien Ridge, lead researcher from the University of Westminster.

Understanding and reacting to patients with warmth and positivity, just as a family member or friend, could have a transformative impact on improving care, the survey said.

The research, titled ‘A meta-ethnography investigating relational influences on mental health and cancer-related health care interventions for racially minoritised people in the UK’, was carried out following reports of discrimination and treatment lacking in empathy.

Funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), the team included researchers from the University of Westminster, scientists from Oxford University, Queen Mary University of London, King’s College London and the University of Portsmouth.

“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,” said Ridge.

Researchers found that warm language and feeling connected is used frequently to describe successful partnerships with professionals.

“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,” an asylum seeker from Sudan was quoted as saying in the study. Many patients talked about valued professionals as being like their ‘family’.

Published in PLOS ONE, an inclusive journal community, the research concluded that training in developing better connections with patients could be a way to improve the care for ethnic minority patients.

Dr Dipesh Gopal from Queen Mary University of London said: “Health care that fails to appreciate the centrality of creating safety and connectedness in care consultations for all kinds of patients risks inadvertently ‘othering’ patients.”

Prof Kam Bhui from the University of Oxford said the importance of warmth and positivity in health consultations should be explored as a way of improving care.

“Patients, irrespective of background, desire to feel connected to their health care professionals. But discrimination adds another layer of complexity where patients from ethnic minorities can end up feeling less cared for than their white counterparts,” said Prof Trudie Chalder from King’s College London.

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