Introduction: This article reports on a priority-setting exercise involving members of the general public and health professionals. The aim is to compare the healthcare priorities of these two groups, as well as their attitudes towards public involvement in priority setting.
Methods: A convenience sample of 373 members of the public attending two central Sydney, Australia, medical clinics were asked to complete a structured, interviewer-administered questionnaire. Forty-four purposively sampled healthcare professionals working in central Sydney completed the same questionnaire. Both groups were asked whether the preferences of the public should inform priority-setting decisions. They then had to allocate an additional (but fixed) amount of healthcare resources across competing programmes, medical procedures and population groups and their preferences were compared.
Results: The health professionals and members of the public strongly supported using public preferences to inform priorities in healthcare. Both groups expressed a slightly stronger preference for using public preferences to inform priorities across healthcare programmes and population groups than for medical interventions.
Discussion/conclusion: Considerable uniformity of preferences was revealed between the health professionals and the members of the public. However, it is argued that, even where the preferences of health professionals are consistent with and representative of those of the wider community, public involvement is important in terms of procedural justice, as it helps to legitimise both the process and the resultant priorities.