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Ethnic minority patients yearn for warmth from health care professionals, research finds

Developing better connections between ethnic minority patients and health care professionals could drive more positive health care experience for ethnic minority patients, researchers have found.

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Responding to reports of discrimination and treatment lacking in empathy, the researchers, led by the University of Westminster and including scientists from Oxford University, and Queen Mary University of London analysed the social and cultural influences in the experience of ethnic minority psychological and/or cancer patients in 29 studies.

Funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), the research team uncovered a multitude of human feelings at play during the care of ethnic minority patients which has been overlooked until now.

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 said, professionals who “who will listen to us, who will allow us to talk”.

The study, which has been published by PLOS ONE, concludes that training in developing better connections with patients could be a way to improve the care for ethnic minority patients.

Professor Damien Ridge, Lead Researcher from the 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.”

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.”

The study is titled ‘A meta-ethnography investigating relational influences on mental health and cancer-related health care interventions for racially minoritised people in the UK’, and be accessed from:

It forms part of the SUrvivors' Rehabilitation Evaluation after CANcer (SURECAN) trial, which is independent research funded by the NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research (PGfAR): RP-PG-0616-20002.

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