Research Article

Patient satisfaction with general practitioner deputising services.

BMJ 1988; 297 doi: (Published 10 December 1988) Cite this as: BMJ 1988;297:1519
  1. R. A. Dixon,
  2. B. T. Williams
  1. Department of Community Medicine, University of Sheffield Medical School.


    Proposed increases in the average hours of surgery sessions of general practitioners as part of the government programme for improving primary health care may result in more use of deputising services to provide off duty cover. The satisfaction of patients with such a service was studied during one week of October 1987 at nine of the 29 branches of Air Call Medical Services in urban areas in Britain by means of a postal questionnaire. Of a sample of 4626 callers to the service, 3887 (84%) responded. An estimated 32% of the patients expected that a doctor from their own practice would have attended them, 19% expected that they would be admitted to hospital and 8% were admitted. Over 90% of patients were satisfied with the telephonist's handling of the call; 79% of those visited were satisfied with the waiting time; and over 80% were satisfied with various aspects of the doctor's handling of the visit (bedside manner, communication, taking of history, physical examination, and explanation of findings), the lowest figure being for explanation of findings (81%). Satisfaction was generally higher during the daytime; among the elderly, especially men; and among patients who did not anticipate that a doctor from their doctor's practice would call. The results suggest that a high proportion of patients were satisfied with the deputising service they received.