Collection of country of birth information in primary care

Key messages for primary care practitioners

  • It is important to be aware of a patient’s country of birth because this can draw attention to health needs that might be relevant for that patient. 

  • Country of birth can be added as a data field within most patient management systems; system-specific instructions are available to assist with this.

  • The Countries A-Z section provides specific information about the prevalence of infectious diseases and other health concerns that might be relevant to migrants from over 130 countries of origin, and relates these data to UK guidance.

Why is collection of country of birth information in primary care important?

System-specific instructions to help you to include country of birth as a field within your patient management system

Why is collection of country of birth information in primary care important?

Collecting country of birth information in primary care is important for several reasons:

  1. Chronic infectious diseases with high morbidity such as HIV, hepatitis B and C, and TB are most prevalent in migrants because exposure is greatest in high prevalence countries. These diseases are associated with better outcome when diagnosed early.
  2. Some migrants have health needs that are relatively unfamiliar to UK practitioners and very rarely affect UK-born patients, for example parasitic diseases, or vitamin A deficiency. Consideration of these conditions can be prompted by knowledge of their prevalence in a patient’s country of origin.
  3. Knowledge of a patient’s country of birth alerts you a range of health risks to consider when assessing their health needs and helps you target testing to those at highest risk of particular diseases/conditions.

Clinical examples:

  • NICE recommend an HIV test to all people from high prevalence countries; knowing a patient is from Uganda (rather than being classed as “Afro-Caribbean” or similar) could be a starting point to remind a practitioner to offer a test.
  • A practitioner is much more likely to consider TB in a patient with constitutional symptoms or with a chronic cough if they are aware/are reminded that the patient was born in Somalia than if they were born in the UK.

So – recording the information provides:

  • Information to the individual practitioner to inform clinical care of the patient
  • Information to the primary care practice; 
    • About the demography of their practice population and their associated disease risk factors 
    • To measure how thoroughly they are managing to consider certain infections in high risk patients
  • Information to a wider group of practices/commissioning groups/research databases/etc as to;
    • The likely health needs of the local population 
    • The quality/effectiveness of their clinical management (with regard to ensuring e.g. compliance with NICE guidelines)

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System-specific instructions to help you to include country of birth as a field within your patient management system

Users of EMIS LV and EMIS Web can find training handouts (TH918 LV, TH920 EMIS Web) for adding the country of birth field to their system in the EMIS-online common room. The EMIS Web instructions also describe how to include a link to the Migrant Health Guide next to the country of birth field.

How to add country of birth as a field within VISION (PDF, 308 KB) 

Further instructions will be included as they become available.  If the system you use is not listed above and you would like to assist with developing instructions for your system please contact us at tmhs@hpa.org.uk

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