Goal setting is recommended in UK health policy to make health care more patient-centred, to enhance the likelihood of behaviour change and to improve health outcomes. Patient-centred care is thought to be particularly important in the management of long term conditions such as asthma. We therefore explored and compared the asthma goals of both health professionals and people with asthma within the primary care clinical consultation, and identified the potential barriers to achieving shared goals and more patient-centred care provision. We conducted a qualitative study based on semi-structured interviews with 15 people with asthma, 7 general practitioners and 6 primary care asthma nurses from Tayside, UK. The data were analysed using the 'Framework' methodology. Four potential barriers to the identification of goals were located. The first stemmed from the status and nature of patients' goals, while the remaining three related to the beliefs and practices of health professionals. These findings are discussed in relation to relevant sociological literature around the potential tensions between lay and professional knowledge, and also tensions in the relationship between knowledge and values. We conclude that barriers need to be recognised and addressed where possible before the achievement of shared asthma goals can become common practice. In particular, health professionals may require training in how to elicit goals with patients and how to differentiate between end states and goals that are in fact assumed to mediate the achievement of such desired end states.
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