Who are your public? A survey comparing the views of a population-based sample with those of a community-based public forum in Scotland

Health Soc Care Community. 2005 Mar;13(2):164-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2524.2005.00544.x.


This paper describes a questionnaire survey, carried out in the NHS Grampian area of NE Scotland. It compares responses from 84 members of a community-based public forum (39 of whom were sent questionnaires) and a random sample of 10,000 adults registered with general practices in Grampian (2,449 of whom were sent questionnaires).

Main outcome measures: differences in demographic profiles and opinions about different feedback mechanisms (patient representative, telephone helpline and NHS feedback website) and their likely effectiveness in three different scenarios. 46% of community forum members consented to take part compared to 24% of the population sample. Younger people and residents in more deprived areas were under-represented in both groups. Community forum members were older (only one under 40 years of age), more likely to be retired and not in employment. Internet access was similar in both groups. Opinions about different systems of feeding back views to the NHS varied but community forum members were more likely to be positive in their opinions about the value of different feedback mechanisms and less likely to think they were 'a waste of NHS money'. Responses to three scenarios revealed similar opinions, but on some issues, there were key differences in the responses from the two groups. Community forum members were more likely to consider writing a letter as a means of getting something done about a problem and were more likely to talk to their GP if experiencing a problem than respondents in the main group. In general their responses were more positive towards the NHS. There is a need to ensure a broad basis for membership of public forums and/or proactively seek the views of groups that are under-represented if public forums are to be used to represent the views of the wider population and inform decision making in the NHS.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health
  • Catchment Area, Health
  • Community Health Planning / organization & administration*
  • Community Participation / methods
  • Community Participation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Problem Solving
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Scotland
  • State Medicine / organization & administration*
  • State Medicine / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires