The role of culture in the general practice consultation process

Ethn Health. 2006 Nov;11(4):389-408. doi: 10.1080/13557850600824286.


In this paper, we will examine the importance of culture and ethnicity in the general practice consultation process. Good communication is associated with positive health outcomes. We will, by presenting qualitative material from an empirical study, examine the way in which communication within the context of a general practitioner (GP) consultation may be affected by ethnicity and cultural factors. The aim of the study was to provide a detailed understanding of the ways in which white and South Asian patients communicate with white GPs and to explore any similarities and differences in communication. This paper reports on South Asian and white patients' explanations of recent videotaped consultations with their GP. We specifically focus on the ways in which issues of ethnic identity impacted upon the GP consultation process, by exploring how our sample of predominantly white GPs interacted with their South Asian patients and the extent to which the GP listened to the patients' needs, gave patients information, engaged in social conversation and showed friendliness. We then go on to examine patients' suggestions on improvements (if any) to the consultation. We conclude, by showing how a non-essentialist understanding of culture helps to comprehend the consultation process when the patients are from Great Britain's ethnicised communities. Our findings, however, raise generic issues of relevance to all multi-racial and multi-ethnic societies.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Asian People / psychology*
  • Communication*
  • Cultural Diversity*
  • Family Practice*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Medical History Taking*
  • Minority Groups
  • Pakistan / ethnology
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Process Assessment, Health Care*
  • Qualitative Research
  • United Kingdom
  • White People / psychology*