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Language spoken at home and the association between ethnicity and doctor-patient communication in primary care: analysis of survey data for South Asian and White British patients

03 Mar 2016


To investigate if language spoken at home mediates the relationship between ethnicity and doctor–patient communication for South Asian and White British patients.


We conducted secondary analysis of patient experience survey data collected from 5870 patients across 25 English general practices. Mixed effect linear regression estimated the difference in composite general practitioner–patient communication scores between White British and South Asian patients, controlling for practice, patient demographics and patient language.


There was strong evidence of an association between doctor–patient communication scores and ethnicity. South Asian patients reported scores averaging 3.0 percentage points lower (scale of 0–100) than White British patients (95% CI –4.9 to –1.1, p=0.002). This difference reduced to 1.4 points (95% CI –3.1 to 0.4) after accounting for speaking a non-English language at home; respondents who spoke a non-English language at home reported lower scores than English-speakers (adjusted difference 3.3 points, 95% CI –6.4 to –0.2).


South Asian patients rate communication lower than White British patients within the same practices and with similar demographics. Our analysis further shows that this disparity is largely mediated by language.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in BMJ Open