General practitioner Practice manager Contract England Scotland Wales

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Ethnicity and first language recording

The ethnicity DES was introduced as part of the 2008-2009 contract negotiations, when the General Practitioners Committee (GPC) and NHS Employers agreed five new clinical directed enhanced services (DESs).

These DESs focused on the health and service priorities of the Department of Health that would benefit patients and were for:

  • heart failure
  • alcohol
  • learning disabilities
  • osteoporosis
  • ethnicity

The ethnicity and first language DES was withdrawn on 1 April 2011, because it was intended as a two-year catch up to enable practices to record ethnicity and first language for patients already on their list, and following the third year extension for 2010-2011, this has now ceased.

Despite the withdrawal of this DES, it is expected that practices would want to continue to record their patients' first language and ethnicity as a matter of routine in order to assess the needs of their population. However, this is a practice choice as there is no longer any contractual requirement to do so. Practices cannot be compelled to carry out this work. This guidance highlights the published codes for ethnicity and first language so that practices can continue to record this data.

Annex 1 of the document, which contains a list of NHS Data Dictionary codes for ethnic origin, has been updated to include extended classifications based on a more comprehensive ONS 2001 census list, which practices can use and which is available within the Read Codes.


Ethnicity and first language recording (PDF)