Trust and health worker performance: exploring a conceptual framework using South African evidence

Soc Sci Med. 2005 Oct;61(7):1418-29. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2004.11.062. Epub 2005 Jan 22.


Two relationships of particular importance to health care provision are those between patient and provider, and health worker and employer. This paper presents an analytical framework that establishes the key dimensions of trust within these relationships, and suggests how they may combine in influencing health system responsiveness. The paper then explores the relevance of the framework by using it to analyse case studies of primary care providers in South Africa. The analysis suggests that respectful treatment is the central demand of primary care service users, in terms of positive attitudes/behaviours, thoroughness, and technical competence, as well as institutions that support fair treatment. It is argued that such treatment is necessary for, and integral to, patient-provider trust. The findings also suggest that the notion of workplace trust (combining trust in colleagues, supervisor and employing organisation) has relevance to provider experiences of their workplaces, and so can provide important insights for strengthening management. Nonetheless, given the limitations of this preliminary analysis, further research is needed to develop the notion of workplace trust and to test what role it has, along with that of provider-community relations, in influencing health worker performance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Efficiency*
  • Employee Performance Appraisal*
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Motivation
  • Primary Health Care
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • South Africa
  • Trust / psychology*