NUI Galway Research Produces Guidelines for Communication between GPs and Migrants

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

NUI Galway has published guidelines to support communication between general practitioners (GPs) and migrants who have limited English language skills. The research is a direct and practical response to the ongoing reality in Ireland that many service users from migrant communities and their GPs face significant communication challenges because of language and cultural differences.

Funding for the research was provided by the Health Research Board (HRB) and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

A key finding from this extensive, participatory research process is that the recommended best practice is to use a trained, accredited interpreter or to consult with a general practitioner who has fluency in the language of the service user. These supports increase the chances that information is shared accurately and effectively during a consultation.

Ms Mary O’Reilly-de Brún, Senior Researcher in the Discipline of General Practice, School of Medicine, NUI Galway, points out: “Using children and other family members or friends as interpreters is not considered best practice by migrants, general practice staff, professional interpreters or HSE service planners involved in this project. The use of visual or computer aids such as phrase books or on-line translation programmes are also not considered best practice.”

Ms. Mary O’Reilly-de Brún worked with project leader Anne MacFarlane, Professor of Primary Healthcare Research, University of Limerick, and colleagues in the Health Service Executive National Social Inclusion Unit and the Centre for Participatory Strategies, Galway to produce the report entitled ‘Guideline for Communication in Cross-Cultural General Practice Consultations’.

The importance of the research was highlighted by Diane Nurse from the HSE National Social Inclusion Unit: “This participatory research process progresses recommendations in the HSE National Intercultural Health Strategy 2007-2012 by taking a multi-stakeholder approach to clarifying what kinds of supports work best for whom and in what circumstances.”

An important feature of the participatory research process was the involvement of Service User Peer Researchers (SUPERS). These included Khalid Ahmed, Jean Samuel Bonsenge Bokanga, Maria Manuela De Almeida Silva, Aga Mierzejewska, Lovina Nnadi, Florence Ogbebor and Katya Okonkwo. The group trained in participatory research methods with the Centre for Participatory Strategies, Galway.

This training enabled the SUPERS to give members of their wider communities an opportunity to ‘have a voice’, in their own languages and with people from their own cultural groups, in the development of the guidelines. In total, fifty-one members of the migrant community from Polish, Russian, Portuguese, Urdu, French Congolese speaking and Nigerian communities in the Galway region, participated in this research along with representatives from general practices, professional interpreting and the HSE.

Speaking about her experience of being trained as a peer researcher Maria Manuela De Almeida Silva said: “The most exciting and important experience was the PLA training provided, it was excellent training. I use it all the time now, with lots of different groups and in lots of different project. ”

This research was funded by the Health Research Board and the Health Service Executive National Social Inclusion Unit through a Health Research Board Partnership Award.

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Author: Marketing and Communications Office, NUI Galway
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