Recent changes in UK primary care have increased the range of services and healthcare professionals available for advice. Furthermore, the UK government has promoted greater use of both self-care and the wider primary care team for managing symptoms indicative of self-limiting illness. We do not know how the public has been responding to these strategies. The aim of this study was to describe the current use of different management strategies in the UK for a range of symptoms and identify the demographic, socio-economic and symptom characteristics associated with these different approaches.
An age and sex stratified random sample of 8,000 adults (aged 18-60), drawn from twenty general practices across the UK, were sent a postal questionnaire. The questionnaire collected detailed information on 25 physical and psychological symptoms ranging from those usually indicative of minor illness to those which could be indicative of serious conditions. Information on symptom characteristics, actions taken to manage the symptoms and demographic/socio-economic details were also collected.
Just under half of all symptoms reported resulted in respondents doing nothing at all. Lay-care was used for 35% of symptoms and primary care health professionals were consulted for 12% of symptoms. OTC medicine use was the most common lay-care strategy (used for 25% of all symptom episodes). The GP was the most common health professional consulted (consulted for 8% of all symptom episodes) while use of other primary care health professionals was very small (each consulted for less than 2% of symptom episodes). The actions taken for individual symptoms varied substantially although some broad patterns emerged. Symptom characteristics (in particular severity, duration and interference with daily life) were more commonly associated with actions taken than demographic or socio-economic characteristics.
While the use of lay-care was widespread, use of the primary care team other than the GP was low. Further research is needed to examine the public's knowledge and opinions of different primary care services to investigate why certain services are not being used to inform the future development of primary care services in the UK.
Signs and symptoms; Symptom iceberg; Community-based; Health care services; Primary care
BACKGROUND: Teenagers are believed to have health concerns that are not adequately addressed in primary care because of perceived barriers that inhibit them from consulting a general practitioner (GP). We report the results of a study examining links between potential attitudinal barriers and actual help-seeking behaviour. AIM: To determine whether the attitudes of teenagers towards general practice are associated with differences in consultation patterns. METHOD: Results of a postal questionnaire survey of attitudes to general practice, performed among teenage patients aged 13 to 15 years registered with five general practices in the East Midlands, were analysed in relation to consultation data from retrospective casenote analysis for the preceding 12 months. RESULTS: Matched questionnaire and consultation data were available for 678 teenagers. We found few significant differences in overall consultation rates between teenagers expressing differing attitudes about aspects of general practice. Differences did exist in relation to perceived difficulty in getting an appointment, feeling able to confide in a GP, and perception of adequate time being given in the consultation. Fear of embarrassment was associated with lower consultation rates for gynaecological problems and contraception. CONCLUSIONS: Negative perceptions of general practice by teenagers may have less of an influence on actual consultation behaviour than previously believed. However, there are some aspects of care that merit further attention if teenagers are to feel able to consult their GP more easily.
Background. There are several assumptions within clinical practice about who is more or less likely to consult a health care practitioner for particular symptoms, most commonly these focus around socio-demographic characteristics. We aimed to assess the evidence for the impact of socio-demographic characteristics on consultation for back pain.
Methods. We conducted a review of the literature, using systematic methods, on consultation for back pain. Using systematic searching techniques we identified peer-reviewed publications that focused on health care consultation in response to symptoms of back pain and which included data on both users and non-users of health care.
Results. We identified 23 studies. Definitions of help-seeking were inconsistent across studies. The majority of the 15 studies which considered the relationship between age and help-seeking for back pain did not find evidence of an association between these two factors. Seventeen studies considered whether socio-economic position was associated with help-seeking. The evidence largely supported the conclusion of no association (13 papers). Fifteen studies included gender as a variable in their analyses, and the majority (10 papers) presented the finding of no association.
Conclusions. The results from this review suggest that there is little evidence to support the common wisdom that socio-demographic characteristics impact on help-seeking in the context of back pain. As these assumptions relating to who is more or less likely to consult will ultimately affect patient care, it is important that they do not go unchallenged.
Consultation; pain; socio-demographic; systematic review
Women visit their doctors more than men, but comparatively few studies have explored gender differences in consultation in detail.
To identify the factors that predicted the number of primary care consultations in men and women over a 5-year period.
Design of study
Prospective cohort study with three waves of data collection by postal questionnaire.
A single suburban general practice in Greater Manchester, UK.
Consultation data were sought from primary care records on a random sample of 800 adults. The main outcome measure was the number of consultations over the 5 years of the study. Questionnaire measures included the 12-item version of the General Health Questionnaire, the Illness Attitude Scales, a somatic symptom scale, a fatigue scale, and a functional assessment of disability.
Consultation data were obtained on 738 patients (445 women, 293 men, 92% of selected subjects). Longitudinal models of consultation over 5 years showed that changes in psychological distress were more strongly associated with consultation in women than in men, whereas cognitive factors (negative illness attitudes) were more strongly associated with the consultation rate in men than women.
The predictors of consultation in primary care may be different for men and women. A fuller understanding of the reasons for consultation may enable primary care doctors to better help individual patients, as well as perhaps contributing more generally to the development of gender specific interventions for those who consult unusually frequently.
consultation; gender identity; health behaviour; sex factors
Self‐management and adequate consultation behaviour are essential for the successful treatment of chronic heart failure (CHF). Patients with a type‐D personality, characterised by high social inhibition and negative affectivity, may delay medical consultation despite increased symptom levels and may be at an increased risk for adverse clinical outcomes.
To examine whether type‐D personality predicts poor self‐management and failure to consult for evident cardiac symptoms in patients with CHF.
178 outpatients with CHF (aged ⩽80 years) completed the type‐D Personality Scale at baseline, and the Health Complaints Scale (symptoms) and European Heart Failure Self‐care Behaviour Scale (self‐management) at 2 months of follow‐up. Medical information was obtained from the patients' medical records.
At follow‐up, patients with a type‐D personality experienced more cardiac symptoms (OR 6.4; 95% CI 2.5 to 16.3, p<0.001) and more often appraised these symptoms as worrisome (OR 2.9; 95% CI 1.3 to 6.6, p<0.01) compared with patients with a non‐type‐D personality. Paradoxically, patients with a type‐D personality were less likely to report these symptoms to their cardiologist/nurse, as indicated by an increased risk for inadequate consultation behaviour (OR 2.7; 95% CI 1.2 to 6.0, p<0.05), adjusting for demographics, CHF severity/aetiology, time since diagnosis and medication. Accordingly, of 61 patients with CHF who failed to consult for evident cardiac symptoms, 43% had a type‐D personality (n = 26). Of the remaining 108 patients with CHF, only 14% (n = 16) had a type‐D personality.
Patients with CHF with a type‐D personality display inadequate self‐management. Failure to consult for increased symptom levels may partially explain the adverse effect of type‐D personality on cardiac prognosis.
An important but understudied component of Canada's health system is alternative care. The objective of this paper is to examine the geographic and socio-demographic characteristics of alternative care consultation in Ontario, Canada's largest province.
Data is drawn from the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS Cycle 3.1, 2005) for people aged 18 or over (n = 32,598) who had a consultation with an alternative health care provider. Four groups of consultations are examined: (1) all consultations (2) massage therapy (3) acupuncture, and (4) homeopath/naturopath. Descriptive statistics, mapping and logistic regression modeling are employed to analyze the data and to compare modalities of alternative health care use.
In 2005, more than 1.2 million adults aged 18 or over consulted an alternative health care provider, representing about 13% of the total population of Ontario. The analysis revealed a varied geographic pattern of consultations across the province. Consultations were fairly even across the urban to rural continuum and rural residents were just as likely to consult a provider as their urban counterparts. From a health perspective, people with a chronic condition, lower health status and self-perceived unmet health care needs were more likely to see an alternative health provider. Women with chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, chronic fatigue syndrome and chemical sensitivities were more likely to see an alternative provider if they felt their health care needs were not being met.
The analysis revealed that geography is not a factor in determining alternative health care consultations in Ontario. By contrast, there is a strong association between these consultations and socio-demographic characteristics particularly age, sex, education, health and self-perceived unmet health care needs. The results underscore the importance of women's health needs as related to alternative care use. The paper concludes that there is a need for more place-specific research that explores the reasons why people use specific types of alternative health care as tied to socio-economic status, health, place of residence, and knowledge of these treatments.
Parents of a stratified random sample of 234 children from 21 training practices in north east England were interviewed at home. All these children had been reported in a postal questionnaire as having had a cough between six and 10 weeks before the interview. Interviews covered social characteristics of the family, the severity of the child's cough and the child's previous respiratory history. These data were analysed using the statistical technique of logistic regression. This produced a good model of consulting behaviour. The model showed that a doctor was likely to be consulted if the child had severe symptoms, or if the cough affected the child's behaviour. This suggests that most parents deciding whether to consult the doctor make careful decisions based on what they see as objective criteria. No social characteristic had a significant influence on the decision to consult the doctor over and above the influence of the characteristics and effect of the cough itself.
Consultation in hospital is an essential tool for acquiring subspecialty support when managing patients. There is limited knowledge on the utilization of subspecialty consultation from hospital based general internists. Consultation patterns to medical subspecialists and the patient factors that may influence consultation are reported for general medical services.
Methods and findings
Hospital discharge data were obtained for patients from medical services over a 2-year period. Consultations requested to medicine subspecialties were identified, and then reported by type and frequency. Information on demographic factors, clinical diagnoses, length of stay (LOS), time in critical care units, and disposition were compared for patients with and without consultation.
3979 patients were hospitalized during the study and 2885 consultations occurred. Almost half of the patients received at least one consultation (48.3%). Gastroenterology (26.3%), infectious diseases (14.6%) and respirology (13.6%) were the most frequently consulted services. Patients with consultation had a greater number of total diagnoses (7.3 vs. 5.5, P < 0.001), a greater mean LOS (15.9 vs. 6.8 days), were more likely to spend time in the ICU (11.5% vs. 3.5%) and CCU (4.3% vs. 1.2%), and to expire in hospital (10.7% vs. 4.9%).
Consultation occurs frequently and its presence is an indicator of patient complexity and high use of health system resources. Analysis of consultation patterns for specific patient populations could assist in optimizing efficiency in health care delivery. Targeting quality improvement strategies toward optimizing consultation processes, engaging heavily utilized subspecialties in educational roles and assisting with resource planning are areas for future consideration.
We presented the pattern of health care consumption, and the utilization of available resources by describing the ecology of medical care in Beijing on a monthly basis and by describing the socio-demographic characteristics associated with receipt care in different settings.
A cohort of 6,592 adults, 15 years of age and older were sampled to estimate the number of urban-resident adults per 1,000 who visited a medical facility at least once in a month, by the method of three-stage stratified and cluster random sampling. Separate logistic regression analyses assessed the association between those receiving care in different types of setting and their socio-demographic characteristics.
On average per 1,000 adults, 295 had at least one symptom, 217 considered seeking medical care, 173 consulted a physician, 129 visited western medical practitioners, 127 visited a hospital-based outpatient clinic, 78 visited traditional Chinese medical practitioners, 43 visited a primary care physician, 35 received care in an emergency department, 15 were hospitalized. Health care seeking behaviors varied with socio-demographic characteristics, such as gender, age, ethnicity, resident census register, marital status, education, income, and health insurance status. In term of primary care, the gate-keeping and referral roles of Community Health Centers have not yet been fully established in Beijing.
This study represents a first attempt to map the medical care ecology of Beijing urban population and provides timely baseline information for health care reform in China.
OBJECTIVE--To identify factors influencing decision making by general practitioners in the diagnosis and treatment of lower urinary tract symptoms in women. SETTING--Two suburban London general practices. SUBJECTS--Women presenting to their family doctor with lower urinary tract symptoms. DESIGN--After each consultation the doctor completed a questionnaire on presenting symptoms; clinical examination; investigations undertaken; presence of psychological, social, and menstrual problems; patients' requests for antibiotics; antibiotic prescribing; knowledge of the patient; attitude towards the consultation; and any other factors assisting in diagnosis and management. Finally, doctors predicted the presence or absence of clinically important bacteriuria. Each woman completed a demographic questionnaire, the 12 item general health questionnaire, and the modified menstrual distress questionnaire, after which each provided a clean catch midstream urine sample. Case notes were examined for information on previous reports of results of urine analysis. RESULTS--When the general practitioners did not know the patients well they were 4.5 times more likely to assume that there was a clinically important infection. When they knew the patient well, they were four times more likely to make a correct prediction of the test result and 12 times less likely to prescribe antibiotics. Doctors were five times more likely to predict the test result correctly in patients from social classes 1 and 2 and were six times more likely to prescribe antibiotics for the older women in the sample. CONCLUSIONS--In women presenting with urinary tract symptoms, these family practitioners seemed to take no particular regard of physical, psychological, or menstrual factors in making their assessments. They were most accurate in their prediction of the result of urine analysis and least likely to prescribe antibiotics when they had a good general knowledge of the patient. Which came first, the diagnosis or prescribing, is difficult to say and probably differed in individual cases. Doctors tended to be more conservative in their management of older women and those whom they knew less well.
BACKGROUND: Many women with heavy periods and irregular bleeding do not consult about them. It has been suggested that some of these symptoms are associated with psychological distress and that this influences consultation behaviour which may account for why some women present with a menstrual disturbance and others with apparently the same problem do not. AIM: To explore the relationship between symptom severity, psychological distress, and the seeking of medical help in primary care among women aged 54 years or less with increased vaginal bleeding. DESIGN OF STUDY: Case control. SETTING: An urban four-partner general practice of 10,000 patients. METHOD: Questionnaires were sent to women who were consulting with new episodes of 'increased vaginal bleeding' and two groups of controls: consulting controls with 'acute respiratory tract infection' (RTI) or 'other illness' as identified by weekly computerised searches, and community controls, selected from the practice age-sex register. RESULTS: Nine hundred and forty-three questionnaires were sent out to 108 cases and 835 controls with an 80% response rate. Of these, 60.9% of the cases, 47.0% of the consulting controls, and 39.7% of the community controls were subjects with probable psychological distress on the General Health Questionnaire (chi2 test, P = 0.002). Cases were more likely than community controls to have heavy periods (odds ratio [OR] = 2.86, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.53-5.35) and heavy periods interfering with life (OR = 3.69, 95% CI = 2.02-6.75). After controlling for heaviness of periods, cases were still more likely to have psychological distress (OR = 1.80, 95% CI = 1.00-3.24). The same relationships prevailed when comparing cases and consulting controls. CONCLUSION: Interference in life caused by heaviness of periods appears to be a powerful initiator of consultation with increased vaginal bleeding. Perceived heavy periods and psychological disturbance are weaker predictors. Women presenting to primary care with increased vaginal bleeding are more likey to have a psychological disturbance than women from the community or those consulting with another illness.
BACKGROUND: Little is known about why men fail to seek medical help for urological symptoms. AIM: This study was designed to document men's perceptions of urinary symptoms and to increase understanding of health-care-seeking behaviour. METHOD: A stratified random sample of men aged 40-79 years was drawn from the age-sex register of a health centre in Central Scotland. Two hundred men were interviewed using semi-structured qualitative techniques and asked to complete a symptom questionnaire. The response rate was 65%. RESULTS: Urinary symptoms reported to be most bothersome were dribbling, hesitancy and straining. All but the youngest age group (40-49 years) associated developing urinary symptoms with ageing. This was considered to be a reason not to consult a doctor. Most symptoms were not thought to be serious. Pain, haematuria and acute retention gave cause for concern, and were perceived as reasons for seeking medical help. Although urinary symptoms interfered with selected activities in daily life, this was not a worry to the men and was not seen to be a sufficient reason alone to consult their general practitioner. CONCLUSION: The insidious development of urinary problems over time reinforces the belief that it is part of getting older and accounts for the accommodation of symptoms within men's everyday living experiences. Bothersomeness associated with urinary symptoms was not synonymous with worry or problems. Doctors must be prepared to initiate discussion about urinary function in order to assess the impact of symptoms on an individual's daily life.
To identify factors associated with the decision to consult with dyspepsia, patients with dyspepsia were identified from a postal survey in the community. A random sample of 69 patients who had consulted their general practitioner and 66 patients with dyspepsia who had not consulted were interviewed in their homes. Differences in consultation behaviour were not explained by differences in self-reported severity or frequency of symptoms or by the presence of associated symptoms. The most striking difference between the two groups was concern among the consulters about the possible seriousness of symptoms. Consulters were also more likely to be worried about cancer and heart disease and to have experienced more disruptive or threatening life events than the non-consulters. These results emphasize the importance of looking beyond the presentation of common symptoms in general practice to patients' fears about the significance of the symptoms and to non-physical determinants of consultation behaviour.
This multicentre study examined the influence of patient demographic, disease status and psychological variables on clinical geneticists/genetic counsellors (consultants) behaviours in initial consultations with women from high-risk breast cancer families. One hundred and fifty-eight women completed a pre-clinic self-report questionnaire. The consultations were audiotaped, transcribed verbatim and coded. Consultants did not vary their behaviour according to women's expectations. However, significantly more aspects of genetic testing were discussed with women who were affected with breast cancer (P<0.001), screening and management with unaffected women (P=0.01) and breast cancer prevention with younger women (P=0.01). Prophylactic mastectomy was discussed more frequently with women with medical and allied health training (P=0.02), and prophylactic oophorectomy with women affected with breast cancer (P=0.03), those in non-professional occupations (P=0.04) and with a family history of breast and ovarian cancer (P<0.001). Consultants used significantly more behaviours to facilitate understanding with women who were in non-professional occupations (P=0.04); facilitated active patient involvement more with women affected with breast cancer (P<0.001) and used more supportive and counselling behaviours with affected women (P=0.02). This study showed that patient demographics were more likely to predict consultants' communication behaviours than the woman's psychological status. Methods to facilitate assessment of psychological morbidity are needed to allow more tailored communication.
British Journal of Cancer (2002) 87, 502–508. doi:10.1038/sj.bjc.6600484 www.bjcancer.com
© 2002 Cancer Research UK
familial breast cancer; predictors; consultant communication
Women's perceptions of illness are examined and the effects of lay consultations and social networks on the use of general practitioner services are explored.
A sample of 79 women aged 16-44 from a new estate in London completed six-week health diaries and were subsequently interviewed. Symptoms were recorded in the diaries one day in every three, and the ratio of medical consultations to symptom episodes was 1:18. Nearly three quarters of the symptom episodes that precipitated a medical consultation during the diary period were discussed first with someone who was non-medical. There was an average of 11 lay consultations for every medical consultation. Married women were most likely to consult with their husbands, and single and separated or divorced women with their mothers. The second most popular category of lay consultant, regardless of marital status, was female friends. Type of symptom seemed to have little effect on who was consulted.
Large, active kinship networks appeared to predispose women to consult their general practitioners; large, active friendship networks seemed to have an opposite, if less decisive, effect. We speculate that discussions of symptoms with kin may be intense and protracted and lead to kin referrals to general practitioners. On the other hand, discussions with friends may be more casual and result in symptoms being redefined as unimportant and less in need of medical attention.
Intensive palliative care consultations for plan of care may reduce racial differences in end-of-life care.
To compare cancer patients’ hospice referrals and code status changes after inpatient palliative care consultations by patient ethnicity and consultation intensity.
This observational cohort study prospectively recorded data for all adult cancer patients receiving palliative care consultations at the largest teaching hospital in Hawaii from 2005 through 2009. Chi-square analyses compared hospice referral and code status changes to “Do Not Attempt Resuscitation” by patient characteristics and consultation intensity (more intensive plan of care versus pain and/or symptom management without plan of care). Multiple logistic regression models analyzed factors associated with hospice referral and code status change.
The 1362 consultations generated 454 (33.3%) hospice referrals and 234 (17.2%) code status changes. Controlling for age, gender, Karnofsky score and pre-consultation hospital days, Asian, Pacific Islander, and “other” ethnicities demonstrated increased likelihood of hospice referral versus whites (adjusted odds ratios [AOR] 1.46–2.34, P<0.05). Intensive plan of care consultations were strongly associated with hospice referral (AOR 3.08, 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.33–4.07, P<0.0001). Controlling for consultation intensity reduced the association between ethnicity and hospice referral (AORs 1.35–2.06, P=0.03, “other” ethnicity; P=nonsignificant, Asian and Pacific Islander). Intensive consultations were strongly associated with code status change (AOR 2.96; 95%CI 2.08–4.22, P<0.0001). Ethnicity was not significantly associated with code status change.
Consultation intensity was the strongest predictor of hospice referrals and code status changes, and reduced the ethnic variations associated with hospice referral.
Palliative care; hospital care; minority populations; Asian Americans; Pacific Islanders; outcomes; hospice; decision making; resuscitation
The symptom iceberg describes the phenomenon that most symptoms are managed in the community without people seeking professional health care. The size of the iceberg for many symptoms is unknown, as is their association with personal characteristics, including history of a chronic disease.
To ascertain the size of the symptom iceberg in the UK.
Design of study
A UK-wide community-based postal survey.
Urban and rural communities across the UK.
A postal survey was sent to an age- and sex-stratified random sample of 2474 adults, aged 18–60 years, drawn from 20 practices around the UK. Questions were aimed at investigating adults' experiences of 25 different symptoms in the previous 2 weeks.
The number of symptoms experienced by one individual in the previous 2 weeks ranged from 0 to 22 (mean 3.66). Of the symptoms examined, the three most common were: feeling tired/run down; headaches; and joint pain. Univariate analysis found symptom prevalence to be significantly associated with a wide range of participant characteristics. However, after adjustment, many of these associations no longer remained significant for a number of the symptoms. Presence of a chronic condition, age, and employment status were the three factors most commonly associated with the 2-week prevalence of symptoms. Reported symptom characteristics (severity, duration, interference, and time off work) varied little by sex or age.
Symptoms in the UK community are common. Symptom prevalence was associated with a number of participant characteristics, although the extent of this association was less than has been reported in previous research. This study provides an important current baseline prevalence of 25 symptoms in the community for those who do, and do not, have a chronic condition.
community-based; epidemiology; prevalence; signs and symptoms; symptom iceberg
Background: It is thought that people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) who consult secondary care have more severe symptomatology than those treated mainly in primary care.
Aims: To describe the physical and psychological symptoms of IBS, and the health-related quality of life of patients managed in primary and secondary care.
Design of study: Cross-sectional observational survey.
Setting: The general population of the United Kingdom (UK).
Methods: A cohort of people with IBS symptoms was recruited via a UK-wide newspaper advertisement. Frequency, duration and severity of symptoms, and health-related quality of life data were collected by semi-structured telephone interviews. Descriptive analysis allowed the comparison of those managed in primary care with those consulting secondary care. Logistic regression was used to identify factors associated with patients consulting secondary care.
Results: Data on 486 participants with confirmed IBS (Rome II criteria) were examined. Similar patterns in symptom severity were found in primary and secondary care groups. Factors associated with IBS patients consulting secondary care were: male sex, a longer length of time since diagnosis, having frequent bowel motions, not having dyspepsia in the past 3 months, and having used medication and alternative therapies. Although patients managed in secondary care have greater impairment to their usual activities, both groups had similar health-related quality-of-life profiles.
Conclusion: High levels of physical and psychological morbidity were present in population-based volunteers managed in both primary and secondary care. This study suggests that patients with IBS managed solely in primary care are affected as much as those attending secondary care.
health care seeking behaviour; irritable bowel syndrome; quality of life; referral and consultation
BACKGROUND: A quarter of all consultations are for children, but there is little quantitative evidence documenting what parental factors are important in the decision to consult. AIM: To assess parental factors in higher child attendance (three or more times per year)--the 32% responsible for most (69%) general practice consultations with children. DESIGN OF STUDY: A random sample of 4000 individuals (one per household), including 670 children. SETTING: Six general practices within a 30-mile radius of the administrative centre. METHOD: Parents completed a postal questionnaire for themselves and their child. The adult questionnaire documented lifestyle, attitude to doctors and medicine, Kokko's personality types, perceived health, health anxiety, number of medical problems, medically unexplained somatic symptoms, and willingness to tolerate symptoms. The child questionnaire documented perceived health, the number of medical problems, somatic symptom inventory, willingness to tolerate symptoms, and self-reported attendance. RESULTS: (Adjusted odds ratios, test for trend, 95% confidence intervals.) A response rate of 490/670 (73%) paired adult and child questionnaires was obtained. Reported higher attendance was valid compared with the notes (likelihood ratio positive test = 5.2, negative test = 0.24), and was independently predicted by the child's age, medical problems, council house occupancy, and by the parents' assessment of the severity of the child's ill health. After controlling for these variables, higher attendance was more likely if the parents were higher attenders (adjusted OR = 3.71, 95% CI = 2.31-5.98), and if they perceived their children had medically unexplained physical symptoms (MUPS) (for 0, 1, 2, 3+ symptoms; adjusted ORs (95% CIs) = 1, 3.1 (1.7-5.7), 2.30 (0.97-5.5), 4.2 (1.8-9.6) respectively, P < or = 0.001). Attendance was less likely if they were willing to tolerate symptoms in their children (score for seven normally self-limiting scenarios = 0-17, 18-29 and 30+; adjusted ORs = 1, 0.71, 0.39 respectively, z for trend P = 0.03), willingness to tolerate symptoms and parental perception of child MUPS were associated with council house tenancy and health anxiety. Parents' perception of child MUPS also related to perception of child health and the parents' own MUPS. Parents of higher attenders were more likely to be depressed (HAD depression scale = 0-7, 8-10, 11+ respectively; adjusted ORs (95% CIs) = 1, 2.04 (1.27-3.27), 1.60 (0.75-3.42)) or anxious (anxiety scale 0-7, 8-10, 11+, respectively; adjusted ORs [95% CIs] = 1, 1.60 [0.99-2.58], 1.97 [1.20-3.26]). CONCLUSION: Important parental factors are council house tenancy, the parents' perception of and willingness to tolerate, somatic symptoms in the child, and the parents' own attendance history, health anxiety, and perception of somatic symptoms Doctors should be sensitive to the parental and family factors that underlie the decision to consult and of the needs of parents of high-attending children.
Despite both parties often expressing dissatisfaction with consultations, patients with medically unexplained symptoms (MUS) prefer to consult their general practitioners (GPs) rather than any other health professional. Training GPs to explain how symptoms can relate to psychosocial problems (reattribution) improves the quality of doctor–patient communication, though not necessarily patient health.
To examine patient experiences of GPs’ attempts to reattribute MUS in order to identify potential barriers to primary care management of MUS and improvement in outcome.
Patients consulting with MUS whose GPs had been trained in reattribution. A secondary sample of patients of control GPs was also interviewed to ascertain if barriers identified were specific to reattribution or common to consultations about MUS in general.
Thematic analysis of in-depth interviews.
Potential barriers include the complexity of patients’ problems and patients’ judgements about how to manage their presentation of this complexity. Many did not trust doctors with discussion of emotional aspects of their problems and chose not to present them. The same barriers were seen amongst patients whose GPs were not trained, suggesting the barriers are not particular to reattribution.
Improving GP explanation of unexplained symptoms is insufficient to reduce patients’ concerns. GPs need to (1) help patients to make sense of the complex nature of their presenting problems, (2) communicate that attention to psychosocial factors will not preclude vigilance to physical disease and (3) ensure a quality of doctor–patient relationship in which patients can perceive psychosocial enquiry as appropriate.
doctor–patient communication; medically unexplained symptoms; reattribution
There has been little development of the general practice consultation over the years, and many aspects of the present consultation do not serve communities with multiple health and social problems well. Many of the problems presenting to general practitioners in socio-economically disadvantaged areas are not amenable to a purely medical solution, and would particularly benefit from a multidisciplinary approach. Socio-economic deprivation is also associated with those very factors (more psychosocial problems, greater need for health promotion, more chronic diseases, more need for patient enablement) that longer consultations have been shown to address. This paper describes our study protocol, which aims to evaluate whether a lengthened multidisciplinary primary care team consultation with families in a socially deprived area can improve the psychological health of mothers in the families.
In a randomised controlled trial, families with a history of social problems, substance misuse or depression are randomly allocated to an intervention or control group. The study is based in three general practices in a highly deprived area of North Dublin. Primary health care teams will be trained in conducting a multidisciplinary lengthened consultation. Families in the intervention group will participate in the new style multidisciplinary consultation. Outcomes of families receiving the intervention will be compared to the control group who will receive only usual general practitioner care. The primary outcome is the psychological health of mothers of the families and secondary outcomes include general health status, quality of life measures and health service usage.
The main aim of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of a lengthened multidisciplinary team consultation in primary care. The embedded nature of this study in general practices in a highly deprived area ensures generalisability to other deprived communities, but more particularly it promises relevance to primary care.
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN70578736
Patients' attitudes towards the management of minor ailments influence help-seeking behaviour. Up-to-date information about patients' attitudes is valuable for understanding changes in help-seeking behaviour.
To describe changes in patients' attitudes between 1987 and 2001, and to explain the relationship between patients' attitudes and attributes of practices, practitioners and patients.
Two cross-sectional, Dutch National Surveys of General Practice (1987 and 2001; n = 9579 and n = 8405 patients, respectively).
General practice in the Netherlands.
Patients' attitudes were evaluated in health interviews. Data were analysed using multilevel regression analysis.
In 2001, patients' attitudes showed a shift away from consulting their GP for minor ailments. Attitudes are uniform across different types of practice, and mainly differ between patients. In 1987 as well as in 2001 the factors associated with firm beliefs about the benefits of GP's care in case of minor ailments were male, older age, lower educational level, a non-Western cultural background, and a visit to the GP in the past 2 months. Furthermore, the association between health status and beliefs about GPs dealing with minor ailments is more marked in 2001. Compared to 1987, the influences of GPs and the practice are more intertwined in 2001.
Patients' attitudes towards the management of minor ailments have changed over the years, which implies that strategic action by the profession and the government has affected the way the public uses primary care. However, a marginal group of patients (elderly, less-educated, non-Western) is lagging behind this trend, and continuing to consult GPs for minor ailments.
attitude to health; minor ailments; primary health care
There are commonly-held views relating to what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate use of finite NHS resources. However, very little is known about how and why such views have an impact on consultation patterns.
To quantify the prevalence of opinion on whether people use health services unnecessarily within primary care and accident and emergency (A&E) in order to examine the impact of these views on help-seeking behaviour.
Design of study
A mixed method study utilising cross-sectional questionnaire survey and semi-structured interviews.
A primary care practice in South West England, UK.
Responders to the questionnaire survey were drawn from a random sample of individuals, stratified by sex, selected from one practice in the UK (n = 911). The qualitative sample (n = 22) were purposefully selected from the same general practice.
The quantitative data suggest that the majority of people believe individuals utilise either GP or A&E services inappropriately (65.6%; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 62.4 to 68.7). However, strong views relating to this inappropriate healthcare use were not associated with reported seeking of immediate care (odds ratio [OR] = 0.98, 95% CI = 0.66 to 1.46 for ‘lump’ vignette). Responders tend to consider other people as time wasters, but not themselves. Individuals' generally describe clear rationales for help seeking, even for seemingly trivial symptoms and anxiety level was strongly predictive of health-seeking behaviour (OR = 2.88; 95% CI = 1.98 to 4.19 for lump vignette).
Perceptions that individuals' use health services inappropriately are unlikely to explain differences in help-seeking behaviours. The findings suggest that people do not take the decision to consult health services lightly and rationalise why their behaviour is not time wasting.
mixed-method; patient acceptance of health care; time wasting
Objectives—While clinical practice is complicated by many ethical dilemmas, clinicians do not often request ethics consultations. We therefore investigated what triggers clinicians' requests for ethics consultation.
Design—Cross-sectional telephone survey.
Setting—Internal medicine practices throughout the United States.
Participants—Randomly selected physicians practising in internal medicine, oncology and critical care.
Main measurements—Socio-demographic characteristics, training in medicine and ethics, and practice characteristics; types of ethical problems that prompt requests for consultation, and factors triggering consultation requests.
Results—One hundred and ninety of 344 responding physicians (55%) reported requesting ethics consultations. Physicians most commonly reported requesting ethics consultations for ethical dilemmas related to end-of-life decision making, patient autonomy issues, and conflict. The most common triggers that led to consultation requests were: 1) wanting help resolving a conflict; 2) wanting assistance interacting with a difficult family, patient, or surrogate; 3) wanting help making a decision or planning care, and 4) emotional triggers. Physicians who were ethnically in the minority, practised in communities under 500,000 population, or who were trained in the US were more likely to request consultations prompted by conflict.
Conclusions—Conflicts and other emotionally charged concerns trigger consultation requests more commonly than other cognitively based concerns. Ethicists need to be prepared to mediate conflicts and handle sometimes difficult emotional situations when consulting. The data suggest that ethics consultants might serve clinicians well by consulting on a more proactive basis to avoid conflicts and by educating clinicians to develop mediation skills.
Key Words: Ethics consultation • resolution of ethical problems • ethical conflicts
Psychosocial problems in socioeconomically deprived communities are not always amenable to traditional medical approaches. Mothers living in these areas are a particularly vulnerable group. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a lengthened multi-disciplinary team consultation in primary care in reducing anxiety and depression in mothers.
This was a prospective randomised controlled trial of a multidisciplinary team consultation against normal care. 94 mothers were recruited from three general practices from an area of extreme socio-economic deprivation. Mothers randomised into the intervention group attended a multidisciplinary consultation with up to four case-specific health care professionals. Consultations addressed medical, psychological and social problems and lasted up to one hour. Conventional primary care continued to be available to the intervention families. Control group families received normal primary care services. The outcomes measured were anxiety and depression as using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), health status using SF36v2, and quality of life using the abbreviated Schedule for the Evaluation of Individual Quality of Life (SEIQoL-DW) at baseline, 6 months and 12 months.
Ordered logistic regression was used to analyse the data. There was no significant difference found between intervention and control groups after 6 months and 12 months in all of the measured outcomes.
The new lengthened multi-disciplinary team consultation did not have any impact on the mental health, general health, and quality of life of mothers after 6 and 12 months. Other methods of primary health care delivery in socio-economically deprived communities need to be evaluated.