Telephone survey of private patients' views on continuity of care and registration with general practice in Ireland.
BACKGROUND: The desire of patients for personal continuity of care with a General Practitioner (GP) has been well documented, but not within non-registered private patients in Ireland. This study set out to examine the attitudes and reported behaviours of private fee-paying patients towards continuity of GP care and universal registration for patients.
METHODS: Cross-sectional telephone survey of 400 randomly chosen fee-paying patients living within County Dublin. There is no formal system of registration with a GP for these patients. Main outcomes were attendance of respondents at primary health care facilities and their attitudes towards continuity of care and registration with a GP. Data was analysed using descriptive statistics and using parametric and non-parametric tests of association. Pearson correlation was used to quantify the association between the described variables and attitudes towards continuity and registration with a GP. Variables showing significance at the 5% level were entered into multiple linear regression models.
RESULTS: 97% of respondents had seen a GP in the previous 5 years. The mean number of visits to the GP for respondents was 2.3 per annum. 89% of respondents had a regular GP and the mean length of time with their GP was 15.6 years. 96% preferred their personal medical care to be provided within one general practice. 16% of respondents had consulted a GP outside of their own practice in the previous year. They were more likely to be female, commute a longer distance to work or have poorer health status. 81% considered it important to be officially registered with a GP practice of their choice.
CONCLUSION: Both personal and longitudinal continuity of care with a GP are important to private patients. Respondents who chose to visit GPs other than their regular GP were not easily characterised in this study and individual circumstances may lead to this behaviour. There is strong support for a system of universal patient registration within general practice.