Depth of the patient-doctor relationship and content of general practice consultations: cross-sectional study

SW Merriel, C Salisbury, C Metcalfe, M Ridd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Patient–doctor continuity is valued by both parties, yet the effect of the depth of the patient–doctor relationship on the content of consultations in general practice is unknown.

Aim To assess whether differences in the depth of relationship between a patient and their GP affects the length of consultations, and the number and type of problems and issues raised during a consultation.

Design and setting Cross-sectional study in 22 GP practices in the UK.

Method GP consultations (n = 229) were videotaped and the number of problems and aspects of those problems and issues identified. Patients completed the Patient–Doctor Depth of Relationship (PDDR) and General Practice Assessment Questionnaire-communication (GPAQc) scales. Associations were explored using multivariable linear and logistic regression.

Results Complete data were available on 190 participants consulting 30 GPs. In unadjusted analysis, patients with a deep relationship with their GP discussed more problems (mean 2.8) and issues (mean 4.7) compared with those with a moderate (2.4 problems; 4.0 issues) or shallow (2.3 problems; 3.8 issues) relationship. Patients with deep relationships had consultations that were on average 118 seconds (95% CI = 1 to 236) longer than those with shallow relationships. Adjustment for participant and GP factors attenuated these relationships, although the main trends persisted.

Conclusion A greater number of problems and issues may be raised in a consultation when patients have a deeper relationship with their GP. Over several clinical encounters each year, this may be associated with significant benefits to patients and efficiencies in GP consultations and warrants further investigation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e545-e551
Number of pages7
JournalBritish Journal of General Practice Open
Issue number637
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2015


  • consultation
  • continuity of care
  • doctor-patient relations
  • general practice


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