Is The Perfect Doc: Young, Female, & Asian?

The traditional image of the British family doctor as a serious, besuited white middle-aged man is out of date. As far as patients are concerned, the 'perfect' general practitioner is his polar opposite: young, female and Asian.

A study of hundreds of patients, which asked them to rate doctors on a scale of one to five for perceived expertise, put women doctors - both white and Asian - first in almost all categories, while white, male doctors over the age of 50 languished near the bottom.

Female doctors under the age of 35 were judged to have a preferable personal manner, superior technical skills and superior powers of description.

Patients also stated that they felt more at ease with young, female doctors giving physical examinations, were more likely to have faith in their diagnoses, and were more likely to follow their medical advice and prescribed treatment.

In most of these categories, age and gender had a greater effect on scores than ethnic origin, but the young, female Asian doctor won marginally higher scores than her white female counterpart in every category.

She scored particularly highly for the level of emotional support that she gave patients and the faith that people had in her diagnosis.

The study involved 300 patients attending six general practices in south-west London, who were given photographs of doctors of varied age, sex and ethnic group.

The study, called "What's In a Face" and to be published in a scientific journal called Patient Evaluation and Control, gave white male doctors over the age of 50 an average score of 40 out of 60. Young, white female doctors got 44 while young, Asian female doctors received 47.