Practicality of recording patient ethnicity in general practice: descriptive intervention study and attitude survey

BMJ. 1996 Apr 27;312(7038):1080-2. doi: 10.1136/bmj.312.7038.1080.


Objective: To assess the feasibility of recording patient ethnicity in primary care using the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys classification.

Design: A descriptive intervention study and attitude survey in random samples of adults and primary care staff in randomly selected practices.

Setting: Eight practices in Lincolnshire and seven in Leicester.

Subjects and methods: When patients were asked their ethnicity by general practitioners, nurses, or receptionists data were collected for 863 of a possible 880 patients. Of 750 patients sent a questionnaire about their attitudes towards the collection of such data 489 responded. Ninety five primary care staff completed a similar questionnaire.

Main outcome measures: Time taken to record a patient's ethnicity; attitudes of patients and staff towards such recording, including who should ask, who can respond for others, and whether data can be shared with secondary care.

Results: Recording the data took less than a minute for three quarters of patients, but even this would need an average of a week of receptionist time per general practitioner. 72% of patients and 57% of staff agreed that ethnic data could be shared with secondary care, and 73% of patients and 60% of staff felt that the data should probably be collected in general practice.

Conclusions: Ethnicity recording in general practice is feasible and acceptable. Nevertheless, the role of ethnic data in assessing health need in primary care, an adequate recording system, and evidence that recording offers benefits greater than the costs need to be established.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Data Collection
  • England
  • Ethnic Groups* / psychology
  • Family Practice*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Records
  • Professional Practice
  • Professional-Patient Relations