Convergence and divergence: assessing criteria of consumer satisfaction across general practice, dental and hospital care settings

Soc Sci Med. 1991;33(6):707-16. doi: 10.1016/0277-9536(91)90025-8.


This paper describes the results of the first-stage of a study carried out in the spring of 1988 in the South East of England. The study looked at general and specific aspects of consumer satisfaction with general practitioner services, general dental care services and hospital in-patients care. It also examined which specific consumer criteria were the key predictors of overall satisfaction within each of these particular medical care settings. A related aim was to assess the degree of congruence or divergence of consumer criteria across these differing medical care settings. The evidence suggests that whilst general levels of consumer satisfaction are high (i.e. 83-97%), questions of a more detailed and specific nature revealed greater levels of expressed dissatisfaction (e.g. 38% of the sample felt that they could not discuss personal problems with their GP, 51% felt their dentist was not easy to reach at weekends/holidays, whilst 35% felt hospital doctors did not give sufficient information). Whilst different areas of dissatisfaction were found in each specific medical care setting examined, what was particularly striking was the degree of convergence of the key predictors of overall consumer satisfaction across the medical care settings. That is to say, our findings clearly suggest that issues concerning 'professional competence', together with the nature and quality of the patient-professional relationship, are the key predictors of overall consumer satisfaction with general practice, dental and hospital care [e.g. GP giving sufficient information correlated 0.64 (P less than 0.001) with overall GP satisfaction scores; competent dentist 0.52 (P less than 0.001) with overall dental satisfaction scores; and full confidence in hospital doctors 0.49 (P less than 0.001) with overall hospital satisfaction scores]. The theoretical importance and policy implications of these findings, particularly in the light of the recent NHS reforms, are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Dental Care / standards*
  • Family Practice / standards*
  • Female
  • Health Services Research
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Satisfaction / statistics & numerical data*
  • Professional Competence
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Quality of Health Care*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires