Objective: To identify associations between the characteristics of general practitioners and practices, and patients' evaluations of the availability of general practice.
Design: Written surveys completed by patients.
Setting: General practice care in nine European countries: Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, UK, Belgium (Flanders and Wallonia), Switzerland, Slovenia and Spain.
Study participants: 15996 adult patients consecutively visiting the general practitioner (response rates per country varied between 47 and 89%).
Main measures: The Europep instrument to assess patients' evaluations of five aspects of the availability of general practice care: (1) getting an appointment, (2) getting through on the phone, (3) being able to speak to the practitioner on the telephone, (4) waiting time in the waiting room, and (5) providing quick services for urgent health problems. Each general practitioner recorded age, sex, number of years in the practice, number of practitioners and other care providers in the practice, and urbanization level of the practice.
Results: Patients' more positive evaluations were associated with fewer general practitioners in the practice, except for quick services for urgent health problems (range of conditional overall odds ratios, 1.69-2.02). In addition, a number of significant unconditional overall odds ratios were found, particularly those related to the number of general practitioners' working hours and the number of care providers in the practice. None of the associations was found consistently in all countries.
Conclusion: Patients favour small practices and full-time general practitioners, which contradicts developments in general practice in many countries. Policy makers should consider how the tensions between patients' views and organizational developments can be solved.