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1.  Incongruous consultation behaviour: results from a UK-wide population survey 
BMC Family Practice  2012;13:21.
Symptom characteristics are strong drivers of care seeking. Despite this, incongruous consultation behaviour occurs and has implications for both individuals and health-care services. The aim of this study was to determine how frequently incongruous consultation behaviour occurs, to examine whether it is more common for certain types of symptoms and to identify the factors associated with being an incongruous consulter.
An age and sex stratified random sample of 8,000 adults was drawn from twenty UK general practices. A postal questionnaire was used to collect detailed information on the presence and characteristics of 25 physical and psychological symptoms, actions taken to manage the symptoms, general health, attitudes to symptom management and demographic/socio-economic details. Two types of incongruous consultation behaviour were examined: i) consultation with a GP for symptoms self-rated as low impact and ii) no consultation with a GP for symptoms self-rated as high impact.
A fifth of all symptoms experienced resulted in consultation behaviour which was incongruous based on respondents' own rating of the symptoms' impact. Low impact consultations were not common, although symptoms indicative of a potentially serious condition resulted in a higher proportion of low impact consultations. High impact non-consultations were more common, although there was no clear pattern in the type of associated symptoms. Just under half of those experiencing symptoms in the previous two weeks were categorised as an incongruous consulter (low impact consulter: 8.3%, high impact non-consulter: 37.1%). Employment status, having a chronic condition, poor health, and feeling that reassurance or advice from a health professional is important were associated with being a low impact consulter. Younger age, employment status, being an ex-smoker, poor health and feeling that not wasting the GPs time is important were associated with being a high impact non-consulter.
This is one of the first studies to examine incongruous consultation behaviour for a range of symptoms. High impact non-consultations were common and may have important health implications, particularly for symptoms indicative of serious disease. More research is now needed to examine incongruous consultation behaviour and its impact on both the public's health and health service use.
PMCID: PMC3338366  PMID: 22433072
Signs & symptoms; Community-based; Health care services; Primary care
2.  Revisiting the symptom iceberg in today's primary care: results from a UK population survey 
BMC Family Practice  2011;12:16.
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.
PMCID: PMC3083353  PMID: 21473756
Signs and symptoms; Symptom iceberg; Community-based; Health care services; Primary care
3.  Are different groups of patients with stroke more likely to be excluded from the new UK general medical services contract? A cross-sectional retrospective analysis of a large primary care population 
BMC Family Practice  2007;8:56.
In April 2004, an incentive based contract was introduced to UK primary care. An important element of the new contract is the ability to exclude individuals from quality indicators for a variety of reasons (known as 'exception reporting'). Exception of patients with stroke or TIA from the recording and achievement of quality indicators may have important consequences in terms of stroke recurrence and mortality.
A cross-sectional retrospective analysis of anonymised patient data was performed using 312 Scottish primary care practices.
Patients recorded as unsuitable for inclusion in the contract were more likely to be female (odds ratio (OR) 1.51, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.36–1.68), older (>75 years:OR 3.15, 95%CI 2.69–3.69), and have dementia (OR 4.40, 95%CI 3.57–5.43) when compared to those patients without such a code. Patients were less likely to be older (>75 years:OR 0.70, 95%CI 0.56–0.87) and were more likely to be from the most deprived areas of Scotland (Quintile 5: OR 2.02, 95%CI 1.50–2.70) if they refused to attend for review or did not reply to letters asking for attendance at primary care clinics. Patients with multiple co-morbidities were more likely to have exclusions for achieving diagnostic clinical targets such as cholesterol control (3 or more co-morbidities: OR 3.37, 95%CI 2.50–4.50).
Scottish practices have appeared to use exception reporting appropriately by excluding patients who are older or have dementia. However, younger or more socio-economically deprived patients were more likely to be recorded as having refused to attend for review or not replying to letters asking for attendance at primary care clinics. It is important for primary care practices to identify and monitor these individuals so that all patients fully benefit from the implementation of an incentive based contract and receive appropriate clinical care to prevent stroke recurrence, further disability and mortality.
PMCID: PMC2048961  PMID: 17900351
4.  Experiences and perceptions of people with headache: a qualitative study 
BMC Family Practice  2006;7:27.
Few qualitative studies of headache have been conducted and as a result we have little in-depth understanding of the experiences and perceptions of people with headache. The aim of this paper was to explore the perceptions and experiences of individuals with headache and their experiences of associated healthcare and treatment.
A qualitative study of individuals with headache, sampled from a population-based study of chronic pain was conducted in the North-East of Scotland, UK. Seventeen semi-structured interviews were conducted with adults aged 65 or less. Interviews were analysed using the Framework approach utilising thematic analysis.
Almost every participant reported that they were unable to function fully as a result of the nature and unpredictability of their headaches and this had caused disruption to their work, family life and social activities. Many also reported a negative impact on mood including feeling depressed, aggressive or embarrassed. Most participants had formed their own ideas about different aspects of their headache and several had searched for, or were seeking, increased understanding of their headache from a variety of sources. Many participants reported that their headaches caused them constant worry and anguish, and they were concerned that there was a serious underlying cause. A variety of methods were being used to manage headaches including conventional medication, complementary therapies and self-developed management techniques. Problems associated with all of these management strategies emerged.
Headache has wide-ranging adverse effects on individuals and is often accompanied by considerable worry. The development of new interventions or educational strategies aimed at reducing the burden of the disorder and associated anxiety are needed.
PMCID: PMC1523257  PMID: 16670013
5.  Identification of adults with symptoms suggestive of obstructive airways disease: Validation of a postal respiratory questionnaire 
Two simples scoring systems for a self-completed postal respiratory questionnaire were developed to identify adults who may have obstructive airways disease. The objective of this study was to validate these scoring systems.
A two-stage design was used. All adults in two practice populations were sent the questionnaire and a stratified random sample of respondents was selected to undergo full clinical evaluation. Three respiratory physicians reviewed the results of each evaluation. A majority decision was reached as to whether the subject merited a trial of obstructive airways disease medication. This clinical decision was compared with two scoring systems based on the questionnaire in order to determine their positive predictive value, sensitivity and specificity.
The PPV (positive predictive value) of the first scoring system was 75.1% (95% CI 68.6–82.3), whilst that of the second system was 82.3% (95% CI 75.9–89.2). The more stringent second system had the greater specificity, 97.1% (95% CI 96.0–98.2) versus 95.3% (95% CI 94.0–96.7), but poorer sensitivity 46.9% (95% CI 33.0–66.8) versus 50.3% (95% CI 35.3–71.6).
This scoring system based on the number of symptoms/risk factors reported via a postal questionnaire could be used to identify adults who would benefit from a trial of treatment for obstructive airways disease.
PMCID: PMC156601  PMID: 12716458

Results 1-5 (5)