Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Comparison of criteria derived by government and patients for evaluating general practitioner services.

British Medical Journal 1989; 299 doi: (Published 19 August 1989) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1989;299:494
  1. C. H. Smith,
  2. D. Armstrong
  1. Unit of Sociology, United Medical School, Guy's Hospital, London.


    A study was carried out to see whether patients' criteria of good health care in general practice were different from those of the government and doctors. A total of 711 patients in a semirural group practice evaluated the importance of 20 criteria describing different facets of care. Half the criteria were derived from Promoting Better Health (health education, easy to change doctors, all children vaccinated, health checks for adults and children under 5, regular screening for cancer, woman doctor available, doctor goes on courses, well decorated premises, convenient surgery times); the other 10 were taken from a preliminary interview study of 24 patients (staff friendly and know me, doctor listens and sorts out problems, same doctor for consultations, nurse on premises, appointments available within 48 hours, waiting time less than 20 minutes, small surgery premises, tests available at surgery). Questionnaires containing 10 pairs of criteria assigned by computer were drawn up and patients asked to give their preference in each pair. The number of times each criterion was preferred was scored and its comparative importance ranked. The three criteria most highly ranked by all patients were having a doctor who listens, having a doctor who sorts out problems, and usually seeing the same doctor (all criteria originated by patients). The three least highly valued were health education, being able to change doctor easily, and well decorated and convenient premises (all criteria originated by the government). The criteria originated by patients as a group scored significantly more highly than those originated by government as a group. In a more competitive general practice environment, in which doctors will be more inclined to satisfy the wishes of patients, officially supported indicators of good quality care might not get the encouragement that the government and doctors think that they deserve.