GPs’ views of health policy changes: a qualitative ‘netnography’ study of UK general practice online magazine commentary

Rebecca Elvey, Jennifer Voorhees, Simon Bailey, Taylor Burns, Damian Hodgson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Shifts in health policy since 2010 have brought major structural changes to the English NHS, with government stating intentions to increase GPs’ autonomy and improve access to care. Meanwhile, GPs’ levels of job satisfaction are low, while stress levels are high. PulseToday is a popular UK general practice online magazine that provides a key discussion forum on news relevant to general practice.

Aim To analyse readers’ reactions to news stories about health policy changes published in an online general practice magazine.

Design and setting A qualitative ’netnography’ was undertaken of readers’ comments to PulseToday.

Method A sample of readers’ comments on articles published in PulseToday was collated and subjected to thematic analysis.

Results Around 300 comments on articles published between January 2012 and March 2016 were included in the analysis, using ‘access to care’ as a tracer theme. Concern about the demand and strain on general practice was perhaps to be expected. However, analysis revealed various dimensions to this concern: GPs’ underlying feelings about their work and place in the NHS; constraints to GPs’ control of their own working practices; a perceived loss of respect for the role of GP; and disappointment with representative bodies and GP leadership.

Conclusion This study shows a complex mix of resistance and resignation in general practice about the changing character of GPs’ roles. This ambivalence deserves further attention because it could potentially shape responses to further change in primary care in ways that are as yet unknown.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbern/a
Pages (from-to)e441-e448
Number of pages8
JournalBritish Journal of General Practice
Issue number671
Early online date24 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • access to health care
  • general practice
  • health services research
  • healthcare reform
  • qualitative research
  • work–life balance


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