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

Categories: Research.

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.

Responding to reports of discrimination and treatment lacking in empathy, the researchers, led by the University of Westminster and including scientists from Oxford University, Queen Mary University of London, King’s College London and the University of Portsmouth, 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 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, 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.”

Professor Kam Bhui from the 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.”

Professor Trudie Chalder from King’s College London said: “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.”


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


About the University of Westminster

The University of Westminster offers a vibrant learning environment attracting more than 22,000 students from around 160 nations and we continue to invest in our future with new developments, research projects and new ideas. The University ranked 8th in the UK and 52nd in the world for ‘International Outlook’, according to the Times Higher World University Ranking 2022.

The University has also been recognised as one of the top 15% out of over 1,400 universities globally for its work on contributing to the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs). We also rank 2nd for social mobility among English universities, according to a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies and educational charity the Sutton Trust.

Established as London’s first polytechnic in 1838, we have, from our earliest days, opened our doors to provide educational opportunities to people regardless of their background and supported them on their journey to develop their skills, knowledge and expertise.

About the University of Portsmouth

The University of Portsmouth is a progressive and dynamic university with an outstanding reputation for innovative teaching and globally significant research and innovation. The University’s research and innovation culture is impacting lives today and in the future and addressing local, national and global challenges across science, technology, humanities, business and creative industries.

About King’s College London and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience

King’s College London is one of the top 35 universities in the world and one of the top 10 in Europe (QS World University Rankings, 2021/22) and among the oldest in England. King’s has more than 33,000 students (including more than 12,800 postgraduates) from over 150 countries worldwide, and 8,500 staff. King’s has an outstanding reputation for world-class teaching and cutting-edge research.

The Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s is a leading centre for mental health and neuroscience research in Europe. It produces more highly cited outputs (top 1% citations) on psychiatry and mental health than any other centre (SciVal 2021), and on this metric has risen from 16th (2014) to 4th (2021) in the world for highly cited neuroscience outputs. In the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF), 90% of research at the IoPPN was deemed ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ (3* and 4*). World-leading research from the IoPPN has made, and continues to make, an impact on how we understand, prevent and treat mental illness, neurological conditions, and other conditions that affect the brain. | Follow @KingsIoPPN on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn

About Queen Mary University of London

At Queen Mary University of London, we believe that a diversity of ideas helps us achieve the previously unthinkable.

Throughout our history, we’ve fostered social justice and improved lives through academic excellence. And we continue to live and breathe this spirit today, not because it’s simply ‘the right thing to do’ but for what it helps us achieve and the intellectual brilliance it delivers.

Our reformer heritage informs our conviction that great ideas can and should come from anywhere. It’s an approach that has brought results across the globe, from the communities of east London to the favelas of Rio de Janeiro.

We continue to embrace diversity of thought and opinion in everything we do, in the belief that when views collide, disciplines interact, and perspectives intersect, truly original thought takes form.

 About the University of Oxford

Oxford University has been placed number 1 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings for the seventh year running, and ​number 2 in the QS World Rankings 2022. At the heart of this success are the twin-pillars of our ground-breaking research and innovation and our distinctive educational offer.

Oxford is world-famous for research and teaching excellence and home to some of the most talented people from across the globe. Our work helps the lives of millions, solving real-world problems through a huge network of partnerships and collaborations. The breadth and interdisciplinary nature of our research alongside our personalised approach to teaching sparks imaginative and inventive insights and solutions.

Through its research commercialisation arm, Oxford University Innovation, Oxford is the highest university patent filer in the UK and is ranked first in the UK for university spinouts, having created more than 200 new companies since 1988. Over a third of these companies have been created in the past three years. The university is a catalyst for prosperity in Oxfordshire and the United Kingdom, contributing £15.7 billion to the UK economy in 2018/19, and supports more than 28,000 full time jobs.

About the National Institute for Health and Care Research

The mission of the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) is to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. We do this by:

  • Funding high quality, timely research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care;
  • Investing in world-class expertise, facilities and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services;
  • Partnering with patients, service users, carers and communities, improving the relevance, quality and impact of our research;
  • Attracting, training and supporting the best researchers to tackle complex health and social care challenges;
  • Collaborating with other public funders, charities and industry to help shape a cohesive and globally competitive research system;
  • Funding applied global health research and training to meet the needs of the poorest people in low and middle income countries.

NIHR is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. Its work in low and middle income countries is principally funded through UK Aid from the UK government.

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