Objectives: To examine patients' experiences of continuity of care in the context of different long-term conditions and models of care, and to explore implications for the future organization care of long-term conditions.
Methods: Qualitative semi-structured interviews were carried out with 33 patients recruited from seven general practices in South London. Patients were selected who had one or more of the following long-term conditions: arthritis, coronary heart disease, stroke, hypercholesterolaemia, hypertension, diabetes mellitus or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Results: Multiple morbidity was frequent and experiences of continuity were framed within patients' wider experiences of health care rather than the context of a particular diagnosis. Positive experiences of relational continuity were strongly associated with long-term GP-led or specialist-led care. Management continuity was experienced in the context of shared care in terms of transitions between professionals or organizations. Access and flexibility issues were identified as important barriers or facilitators of continuity.
Conclusions: Across a range of long-term conditions, patients' experiences of health care can be understood in terms of nuanced understandings of relational and management continuity. Continuity experiences, meanings and expectations, as well as barriers and facilitators, are influenced by the model of care rather than type of condition.