Background: Primary care (PC) is the foundation of the Kenyan health care system, providing comprehensive care, health promotion and managing all illnesses across the lifecycle. In the private sector in Nairobi, PC is principally offered by the general practitioners, also known as family doctors (FDs). The majority have no postgraduate training. Little is known about how patients perceive their capability.
Aim: To assess patients' perceptions of the scope of practice of FDs working in private sector PC clinics in Nairobi and their awareness of the new category of family physicians (FPs) and the discipline of family medicine.
Setting: Private sector PC clinics in Nairobi.
Methods: A descriptive survey using a structured, self-administered questionnaire. Simple random sampling was used to recruit 162 patient participants.
Results: Of the participants, 30% knew the difference between FPs and FDs. There was a high to moderate confidence that FDs could treat common illnesses; provide lifestyle advice; family planning (66%) and childhood immunisations (64%). In adolescents and adults, low confidence was expressed in their ability to manage tuberculosis (58%), human immunodeficiency virus (55%) and cancer (33%). In the elderly, there was low confidence in their ability to manage depression (55%), anxiety (57%), urinary incontinence (57%) and diabetes (59%). There was low confidence in their ability to provide antenatal care (55%) and Pap smears (42%).
Conclusion: Patients did not perceive that FDs could offer fully comprehensive PC services. These perceptions may be addressed by defining the expected package of care, designing a system that encourages the utilisation of PC and employing FPs.
Keywords: Nairobi; family doctor; patient’s perceptions; primary care; role; scope of services.