Objectives: To explore the perceptions of patients with chronic conditions about the nature and quality of their care in general practice.
Design: Qualitative study using focus group methods conducted 1 June to 30 November 2002.
Participants and setting: 76 consumers in 12 focus groups in New South Wales and South Australia.
Main outcome measures: Recurring issues and themes on care received in general practice.
Results: Three groups of priorities emerged. One centred on the quality of doctors, including technical competence, interpersonal skills, time for the patient in the consultation and continuity of care. A second concerned the role of patients and consumer organisations, with patients wanting (i) recognition of their knowledge about their condition and self-management, and (ii) for GPs to develop closer links with consumer organisations and inform patients about them. The third focused on the practice team and the importance of practice nurses and receptionists.
Conclusion: GPs should consider the amount of time they spend with chronically ill patients, and their interpersonal skills and understanding of patients' needs. They need to be better informed about the benefits of patient self-management and consumer organisations, and to incorporate them into their care. They also need to review how their practice nurses and receptionists can maximise the care of patients.