Background. In the light of recent changes in the structure and provision of out-of-hours service in the United Kingdom, there is a need to re-assess the quality of care. One way to assess the quality of care is through patient experience. Objectives. This study aimed to explore patient expectations and help-seeking behaviour, in order to understand their relationship with satisfaction and experience of out-of-hours care. Methods. 30 semistructured telephone interviews were carried out with users of the general practitioner out-of-hours service in Gwent, South Wales. The interviews explored users' experiences of using the service. A thematic analysis of transcripts was carried out using NUD*IST software. Comparison of data within and across codes facilitated the identification of explanatory constructs. Double coding of a sample of transcripts and discussion of emerging themes by members of the research team ensured the reliability of findings. Results Most (n = 25, 83%) respondents reported satisfaction with the overall service received but a few (n = 5, 17%) were dissatisfied. Patients generally had specific expectations of their consultation and there was a mismatch between patients' expectations of the service and what the service actually provides in some specific user groups. Unmet expectations resulted in subsequent, and in some cases, multiple consultations. Conclusions. Users' views and expectations may be used to inform service design and improve services, but the data also indicated a need to address user expectations of services, for example by enhanced information provision. Any such interventions to improve patient experience of out-of-hours care will need to be evaluated.
- out-of-hours service
- patients expectations