This literature review focuses on patient satisfaction with skill mix in primary care. This is an important, rapidly changing, topic as the range of health professionals working alongside GPs increases and the roles of staff change. The review is intended to assist primary care organizations in developing skill mixes that meet patients' preferences and needs.
A number of characteristics that influence the type of services that patients want were discovered. Older people and those from ethnic minorities want a ‘traditional’, GP-led service. Access is important to younger people and those in full-time work. Those from lower socio-economic groups value nurses, but have found the increasingly complex organization of services a problem. There are different levels of knowledge and expectations about health services and information on the skills and knowledge of professionals, what they do and the links between them, needs to be available.
A number of aspects of care are important to patients. Patients liked nurses as they were good communicators, formed good therapeutic relationships, gave information on illnesses and spent more time. The location of services is important and patients liked services provided in the home or community. Continuity of care is key, but has been presented as old fashioned and reorganizations may have reduced continuity; skill mix could be viewed as forming a barrier between doctor and patient, but personal lists and teams where practices are divided into smaller units with shared support may help. The competence of health professionals is clearly vital and patients considered nurses competent, although they had concerns about nurses and pharmacists taking on some new roles.
The literature focuses on patients' views about doctors and nurses, although they also want a wider range of services and professionals available in primary care: occupational therapy, link workers, CAB advisers, pharmacist advice and mental health workers. Despite being satisfied with nurses, some patients still wanted to see a doctor next time or felt that a doctor should be available. GPs can help build awareness and confidence in patients about the roles and contribution of the team.