To analyse attitudes to priority setting among patients in Swedish primary healthcare.
A questionnaire was given to patients comprising statements on attitudes towards prioritizing, on the role of politicians and healthcare staff in prioritizing, and on patient satisfaction with the outcome of their contact with primary healthcare (PHC).
Four healthcare centres in Sweden, chosen through purposive sampling.
All the patients in contact with the health centres during a two-week period in 2004 (2517 questionnaires, 72% returned).
Patient attitudes to priority setting and satisfaction with the outcome of their contact.
More than 75% of the patients agreed with statements like “Public health services should always provide the best possible care, irrespective of cost”. Almost three-quarters of the patients wanted healthcare staff rather than politicians to make decisions on priority setting. Younger patients and males were more positive towards priority setting and they also had a more positive view of the role of politicians. Less than 10% of the patients experienced some kind of economic rationing but the majority of these patients were satisfied with their contact with primary care.
Primary care patient opinions concerning priority setting are a challenge for both politicians and GPs. The fact that males and younger patients are less negative to prioritizing may pave the way for a future dialogue between politicians and the general public.