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Fam Pract. 2011 Apr;28(2):210-9. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmq090. Epub 2010 Nov 8.

Exploring patients' self-reported experiences of out-of-hours primary care and their suggestions for improvement: a qualitative study.

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  • 1Clinical Epidemiology Interdisciplinary Research Group, Department of Primary Care and Public Health, Cardiff University, Heath Park, Cardiff CF14 4YS, UK.



Out-of-hours services for primary care provision are increasing in policy relevance. The aim of this qualitative study was to explore service users' recent experiences of out-of-hours services and to identify suggestions for improvement for services and practitioners involved.


We used data from a cross-sectional survey of service users' self-reported experiences of 13 out-of-hours centres in Wales. Three hundred and forty-one respondents provided free-text comments focusing on suggestions for improvement within the survey instrument (the Out-of-hours Patient Questionnaire). A coding framework was based on previous literature focusing on patients' experiences of out-of-hours services, built upon and refined as it was systematically applied to the data. Emergent themes and subthemes were charted and interpreted to comprise the findings.


Central themes emerged from users' perspectives of the structure of out-of-hours services, process of care and outcomes for users. Themes included long waiting times, perceived quality of service user-practitioner communication, consideration for parents and children and accessibility of the service and medication. Suggestions for improving care were made across these themes, including triaging patients more effectively and efficiently, addressing specific aspects of practitioners' communication with patients, reconsidering the size of areas covered by services and number of professionals required for the population covered, extending GP and pharmacy opening times and medication delivery services.


It is important to consider ways to address service users' principal concerns surrounding out-of-hours services. Debate is required about prioritizing and implementing potential improvements to out-of-hours services in the light of resource constraints.

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