What Happens to Patient Experience When You Want to See a Doctor and You Get to Speak to a Nurse?

Observational Study Using Data from the English General Practice Patient Survey

Published in: BMJ Open, Volume 8, Issue 2 (February 2018),e01869. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2017-018690

Posted on RAND.org on April 13, 2018

by Charlotte Paddison, Gary A. Abel, Jenni A. Burt, John Campbell, Marc N. Elliott, Val Lattimer, Martin Roland

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To examine patient consultation preferences for seeing or speaking to a general practitioner (GP) or nurse; to estimate associations between patient-reported experiences and the type of consultation patients actually received (phone or face-to-face, GP or nurse).


Secondary analysis of data from the 2013 to 2014 General Practice Patient Survey.

Setting and Participants

870085 patients from 8005 English general practices.Outcomes Patient ratings of communication and 'trust and confidence' with the clinician they saw.


77.7% of patients reported wanting to see or speak to a GP, while 14.5% reported asking to see or speak to a nurse the last time they tried to make an appointment (weighted percentages). Being unable to see or speak to the practitioner type of the patients' choice was associated with lower ratings of trust and confidence and patient-rated communication. Smaller differences were found if patients wanted a face-to-face consultation and received a phone consultation instead. The greatest difference was for patients who asked to see a GP and instead spoke to a nurse for whom the adjusted mean difference in confidence and trust compared with those who wanted to see a nurse and did see a nurse was -15.8 points (95% CI -17.6 to -14.0) for confidence and trust in the practitioner and -10.5 points (95% CI -11.7 to -9.3) for net communication score, both on a 0–100 scale.


Patients' evaluation of their care is worse if they do not receive the type of consultation they expect, especially if they prefer a doctor but are unable to see one. New models of care should consider the potential unintended consequences for patient experience of the widespread introduction of multidisciplinary teams in general practice.

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