As Britain’s Asian, West Indian and African populations have grown, and the influx of people from EU countries has increased, many health care professionals, particularly those in inner city areas, are working with populations in which a greater proportion of people belong to ethnic minority groups. Consequently it is no longer a question of whether or not Britain is a multicultural society: it is a question of how we engage with the tensions and opportunities that arise from living in a society in which people have different cultural backgrounds (Rober and de Haene, 2014) and, in some cases, diverse constructions of health, illness and health care. There will always be differences between the experience and understanding of ‘insiders’ and outsiders’ to any particular cultural grouping. However, it is important to ensure we have sufficient ‘cultural competence’ to be able to engage sensitively and effectively with the people with whom we work. ‘Cultural competence’ was first used by Cross (1988) but it was not until about a decade later that greater emphasis was placed on applying this concept to health care and the training health care professionals (Betancourt, Green and Carrillo, 2000; Kai, Beavan and Faull, 2011; Papadopoulos, Tilke and Taylor, 1998; Srivastana, 2007).
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