Reassured or fobbed off? Perspectives on infertility consultations in primary care: a qualitative study.
Hinton L., Kurinczuk JJ., Ziebland S.
BACKGROUND: Infertility affects 9% of couples in the UK. Most couples who visit their GP because they are worried about their fertility will ultimately conceive, but a few will not. Treatment usually happens in secondary care, but GPs can have an invaluable role in starting investigations, referring, and giving support throughout treatment and beyond. AIM: To inform clinical practice by exploring primary care experiences of infertility treatment among females and males, and discussing findings with a reference group of GPs to explore practice experience. DESIGN AND SETTING: A qualitative patient interview and GP focus group study. Interviews were conducted in patients homes in England and Scotland; the focus group was held at a national conference. METHOD: An in-depth interview study was conducted with 27 females and 11 males. A maximum variation sample was sought and interviews were transcribed for thematic analysis. Results were discussed with a focus group of GPs to elicit their views. RESULTS: Feeling that they were being taken seriously was very important to patients. Some felt that their concerns were not taken seriously, or that their GP did not appear to be well informed about infertility. The focus group of GPs highlighted the role of protocols in their management of patients who are infertile, as well as the difficulty GPs faced in communicating both reassurance and engagement. CONCLUSION: Simple things that GPs say and do, such as describing the 'action plan' at the first consultation, could make a real difference to demonstrating that they are taking the fertility problem seriously.