Seen but not heard – ethnic minorities’ views of primary health care interpreting provision: a focus group study

Duncan Barron, C. Holterman, P. Shipster, S. Baston, M. Alam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aim: The aim of this study was to explore the awareness and views of members of the ethnic minority community towards primary health care interpreting provision in two localities in Hertfordshire. Background: Ethnic minority groups often have to undertake many aspects of their day-to-day lives with limited English. The provision of high quality language interpretation services is vital for enabling access to public services, including healthcare. The use of accredited or professional interpreters has been minimal within primary care and undermines the principle of equity in the National Health Service. The local Primary Care Trust and ethnic minority forums initiated this study. Methods: The overall research design was qualitative and data collection was undertaken using focus groups. Twenty-four participants from the Pakistani (Punjabi and Urdu speakers), Bangladeshi (Bengali speakers) and Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin speakers) communities took part in one of five focus groups. Ethnic minority members recruited participants, conducted the focus groups and translated the interviews after receiving in-depth training. Findings: Participants were unaware that healthcare professionals could access interpreting provision for their primary health care consultations, which were usually managed with the assistance of family members (including children) and friends. Both the appropriateness of using children and the potential compromising of confidentiality and privacy when using friends to interpret were concerns. Women discussed inventing illnesses rather than talking openly about embarrassing health issues in front of their children or husbands, which they suggested, may lead to depression or other mental health problems. Trust, accuracy, independence and confidentiality were important attributes participants expected in a professional interpreter whom they would prefer was from their own gender and culture. Key words: ethnic minorities; focus groups; interpreting provision; primary health care
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-141
Number of pages10
JournalPrimary Health Care Research & Development
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2010

Bibliographical note

© Cambridge University Press, 2010


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