Patient choice in general practice: the implications of patient satisfaction surveys

J Health Serv Res Policy. 2008 Apr;13(2):67-72. doi: 10.1258/jhsrp.2007.007055.


Objectives: To identify factors that explain patient satisfaction with general practice physicians and hence that may drive patients' choice of practice.

Methods: Logistic regression analysis of English National Health Service national patient survey data is used to identify the aspects of general practice care that are associated with high levels of overall satisfaction among patients.

Results: Confidence and trust in the doctor is the most important factor in explaining the variation in overall patient satisfaction (predicting 82% of satisfaction levels accurately). The seven variables relating to the relationship between patient and doctor have stronger explanatory power than other aspects of the general practitioner (GP) experience. The variables with the lowest overall predictive power are whether the patient was told how long they would have to wait in the surgery (72%), the length of time they had to wait after their appointment time (74%) and ability to get through to the surgery on the phone (74%).

Conclusions: Patients value the quality of their relationship with their doctor more than the appearance of the surgery, accessibility of appointments and their experience in the waiting room. This suggests that, if current restrictions on choice of GP were removed, we would in theory expect a patient's choice to be driven by the quality of the doctor-patient relationship. Once a patient establishes a good relationship with a GP, however, we might expect them to be loyal and therefore unlikely to change practice unless the relationship with the doctor breaks down. Although relationship factors are important to the satisfaction of patients, it is not clear that they will lead large numbers of people to change their GP.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Family Practice*
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Participation*
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • State Medicine
  • United Kingdom