GPs 'lack confidence' with ethnic minorities

Health professionals are being hesitant and lack confidence when dealing with ethnic minorities, according to research.

The study said that many health professionals felt they did not know enough about different cultures and wanted to avoid causing offence or being racist.

A total of 106 health professionals were consulted on how they felt when treating people of different ethnicities.

Many reported they felt anxious about being discriminatory.

This meant the professionals' ability to act flexibly began to suffer, creating a 'disabling hesitancy', the report said.

The study suggests this may inadvertently contribute to ethnic disparities in healthcare.

DoH patient survey results showed some evidence that people from minority ethnic communities report a poorer healthcare experience. The Bangladeshi community, for example, are 20 per cent less satisfied than their white counterparts.

Professor Joe Kai, from the University of Nottingham, lead the latest study.

'Worrying about being perceived as insensitive can be a real barrier to quality care,' he commented.

'A training programme has been devised as a result of the research. It aims to improve the confidence of health professionals when treating people from different ethnic backgrounds.

'We can help health professionals ensure that all patients, regardless of their backgrounds, are treated as individuals.'

Speaking on diversity at a GPC briefing, GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said any inappropriate behaviour is usually unintentional, and he was confident that most GPs are committed to promoting diversity.

Dr Buckman said training was available to encourage diversity among patients, partners and employees, but called for more action to ensure the BMA and the GPC more fairly represented the ethnicity of doctors.

Representatives from every ethnic group should be encouraged to compete in elections, and steps should be taken to ensure there are no barriers, he said.

Commenting on the GMC ethnicity survey, Dr Buckman said that although it was not compulsory, he recommended GPs participate, so that organisations can see they are operating fairly.

He said he understood some GPs concerns about the survey. 'Some people are worried that if they are labelled as something then they are more likely to be discriminated against,' he said.

The GMC is currently conducting the first comprehensive exercise to collect ethnicity data about all doctors practising in the UK.

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