November 2009


Older patients’ attitudes to general practice registrars

A qualitative study

Volume 38, No.11, November 2009 Pages 927-931

Andrew Bonney

Lyn Phillipson

Sandra C Jones

Don Iverson


Research suggests that older patients may be reluctant to engage general practice registrars (GPRs) in their care. The authors undertook a qualitative study of the attitudes of older patients to GPRs to investigate this issue.


Thirty-eight patients aged 60 years and over from three training practices participated in semistructured telephone interviews, which explored patients responses to GPRs. The interviews were recorded, transcribed and analysed using a template analysis approach.


Analysis of the interviews produced five major themes concerning patients’ attitudes to GPRs: ‘desire for continuity’, ‘desire for access’, ‘openness’, ‘trust’ and a ‘desire for meaningful communication’.


Older patients’ attitudes to GPRs cannot be viewed in isolation from their relationship with their usual general practitioner, and this needs to be taken into account when engaging GPRs in the care of older patients. Systems need to be developed to maintain relational and informational continuity with older patients’ ‘regular’ GP.

The patient-doctor relationship is so central to the discipline of general practice that for some authorities the relationship defines the discipline itself.1 The sum of personal knowledge and human interaction shared over time can develop into something of significant worth to both the patient and the doctor, forming what Balint termed a ‘mutual investment company’.2 Older patients,3 those with chronic illness,3–6 and those who have shared significant life events with their general practitioner7 place particular importance in maintaining continuity of care with their personal doctor. General practitioners in turn value continuity with ‘their’ patients.6,8

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