The relationship between GPs and hospital consultants and the implications for patient care: a qualitative study

Rod Sampson, Rosaline Barbour, Philip Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)
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BACKGROUND: Improving the quality of care of at the medical primary-secondary care interface is both a national and a wider concern. In a qualitative exploration of clinicians' relationship at the interface, we want to study how both GPs and hospital specialists regard and behave towards each other and how this may influence patient care.

METHOD: A qualitative interview study was carried out in primary and secondary care centres in NHS Highland health board area, Scotland. Eligible clinicians (general practitioners and hospital specialists) were invited to take part in a semi-structured interview to explore the implications of interface relationships upon patient care. A standard thematic analysis was used, involving an iterative process based on grounded theory.

RESULTS: Key themes that emerged for clinicians included communication (the importance of accessing and listening to one another, and the transfer of soft intelligence), conduct (referring to perceived inappropriate transfer of workload at the interface, and resistance to this transfer), relationships (between interface clinicians and between clinicians and their patients), and unrealistic expectations (clinicians expressing idealistic hopes of what their colleagues at the other interface could achieve).

CONCLUSION: The relationship between primary and secondary care clinicians, and, in particular, difficulties and misunderstandings can have an influence upon patient care. Addressing key areas identified in the study may help to improve interface relationships and benefit patient care.

Original languageEnglish
Article number45
JournalBMC Family Practice
Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2016


  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Consultants
  • Female
  • General Practitioners
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Patient Care
  • Primary Health Care
  • Qualitative Research
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Scotland
  • Secondary Care
  • Specialization
  • State Medicine
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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