This study aims to inform strategic policy makers and managers about the value of general population surveys by determining and comparing dimensions of satisfaction in four different health services in Scotland: general practice, domiciliary care, outpatients and inpatients (including day cases). The research design involved secondary data analysis of a national telephone survey conducted to inform the development of a national health plan. The database was created using a stratified quota sample of 3052 people of 16 years and above resident in Scotland in 2000. The main outcome measures investigated were overall measures of patient satisfaction with each type of service. Principal components analysis was used to determine the dimensions. Interest was in the extent to which patients, many of whom were the same (having used more than one service), evaluated different services in similar ways, as well as those factors specific to each service. Using logistic regression, the results demonstrate that interpersonal care and information, and desired improvements in service were universal and key explanatory dimensions in all services, followed by a combination of access, physical facilities, time and quality of food, depending on relevance to the service. These factors, particularly interpersonal care and information, distinguished well the highly satisfied from the others, with age providing further discrimination between non-hospital patients, while gender added to discrimination between inpatients. In conclusion, despite the limitations of telephone interviews, it is feasible to ask about several services at the same time and for the answers to reflect common underlying dimensions of evaluation found in more exhaustive research within each service. These factors offer a set of summary measures by which services can be easily evaluated at a strategic level and point to where efforts to increase patient satisfaction can be maximised.