Background: Inequality in health and health care services is an important policy issue internationally as well as in the UK, and is closely linked to socio-economic deprivation, which in Scotland is concentrated in and around Glasgow. Patients views on primary care in deprived areas are not well documented. In the present study we explore the views of patients living in a high deprivation area on the quality of consultations in general practice.
Methods: Qualitative focus group study set in an area of high socio-economic deprivation in a large peripheral housing estate in Glasgow, Scotland. 11 focus groups were conducted; 8 with local community groups and 3 with other local residents. In total 72 patients took part. Grounded theory was used to analyse the data.
Results: Patients' perceptions of the quality of the consultation with GPs consisted of two broad, inter-relating themes; (1) the GPs' competence, and (2) the GPs empathy or ' caring'. Competence was often assumed but many factors coloured this assumption, in particular whether patients had experienced (directly or indirectly with a close family member) 'successful' outcomes with that doctor previously or not. 'Caring' related to patients feeling (a) listened to by the doctor and being able to talk; (b) valued as an individual by the doctor (c) that the doctor understood 'the bigger picture', and (d) the doctors' explanations were clear and understandable. Relational continuity of care (being able to see the same GP and having a good relationship), and having sufficient time in the consultation were closely linked with perceptions of consultation quality.
Conclusion: Patients from deprived areas want holistic GPs who understand the realities of life in such areas and whom they can trust as both competent and genuinely caring. Without this, they may judge doctors as socially distant and emotionally detached. Relational continuity, empathy and sufficient time in consultations are key factors in achieving this.