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How do adults with physical disability experience primary care? A nationwide cross-sectional survey of access among patients in England


Objectives Almost a quarter of adults in England report a longstanding condition limiting physical activities. However, recent overseas evidence suggests poorer access to healthcare for disabled people. This study aimed to compare patient-reported access to English primary care for adults with and without physical disability.

Design Secondary analysis of the 2010/11 General Practice Patient Survey (response rate 35.9%) using logistic regression.

Setting and participants 1 780 977 patients, from 8384 English general practices, who provided information on longstanding conditions limiting basic physical activity. 41 389 of these patients reported unmet need to see a doctor in the previous 6 months.

Outcomes Difficulty getting to the general practitioner (GP) surgery as a reason for unmet need to see a doctor in the preceding 6 months; difficulty getting into the surgery building.

Results Estimated prevalence of physical disability was 17.2% (95% CI 17.0% to 17.3%). 17.9% (95% CI 17.4% to 18.4%) of patients with an unmet need to see a doctor were estimated to experience this due to difficulty getting to the surgery, and 2.2% (95% CI 2.2% to 2.3%) of all patients registered with a GP were estimated to experience difficulty getting into surgery buildings. Adjusting for gender, age, health status and employment, difficulty getting to the surgery explaining unmet need was more likely for patients with physical disability than for those without. Similarly, difficulty getting into surgery buildings was more likely among physically disabled patients. Both associations were stronger among patients aged 65–84 years.

Conclusions Adults in England with physical disability experience worse physical access into primary care buildings than those without. Physical disability is also associated with increased unmet healthcare need due to difficulty getting to GP premises, compared with the experience of adults without physical disability. Increasing age further exacerbates these problems. Access to primary care in England for patients with physical disability needs improving.

  • Primary Care
  • Health Services Administration & Management
  • Public Health
  • Rehabilitation Medicine
  • Epidemiology

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