The impact on attendance of the distance to general practice surgeries, and the attributes offered by those surgeries, was investigated. One thousand and forty four subjects, selected at random from the metropolitan area of Perth, Western Australia, responded to a household interview survey concerning which attributes of general practice (GP) surgeries they found attractive and the identity of the surgery they preferred to attend. The sample was stratified by different levels of social disadvantage and by good and poor global levels of spatial accessibility of GP surgeries. In separate fieldwork, interviewers collected detailed environmental data from practice staff at 466 GP surgeries available to the community survey respondents within metropolitan Perth. Respondents living in areas of poor global access were more likely to attend their nearest surgery (25% vs. 6%) and to bypass fewer surgeries to attend a preferred surgery (median 2 vs. 20). Those who were most socially disadvantaged were less likely than those who were better off to bypass surgeries where global access was poor, but more likely to bypass nearby surgeries and to seek out a surgery that bulk billed in areas where global access was good. A number of attractiveness factors had an important influence on choice of surgery, including: 'easy to make an appointment'; 'generally sees patients on time'; 'pharmacy nearby'; 'bulk bills' and 'open at all on Sundays'. Respondents attending their nearest surgery were more likely to have all of their nominated 'very important' attributes satisfied at that surgery than non-attenders (40% vs. 16%). A logistic regression model, adjusting for distance effects and size of surgery, showed within each level of global access and social disadvantage a consistent increase in the odds of attending a surgery that satisfied the attributes desired by respondents.
Copyright 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd.