How patients perceive minor illness and factors influencing seeing a doctor

Judy Cantrill, Caroline Morris, Marjorie C Weiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (SciVal)


It is anecdotally reported that general practitioners (GPs) consider that some of their time is wasted by patients consulting with minor ailments. This study aimed to investigate patients’ definitions of minor ailments and explore the reasons behind their decision to seek a GP consultation about ailments that they perceive to be minor. Qualitative interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of 19 adult patients from two demographically and socially diverse general practices in England. Interviewees’ views on (i) the types of symptoms and illnesses they thought of as minor ailments and (ii) the precipitating factors that had influenced their decision to consult a GP about a minor ailment were explored. What interviewees considered as minor ailments depended not only upon factors relating to the current condition (such as severity), but also other issues (such as previous experience and knowledge).
Although a condition that could be self-managed was considered a minor ailment; a minor ailment was not necessarily synonymous with a condition that could be handled alone. It is therefore unhelpful to think of specific conditions as being minor or major or to dismiss all minor ailment consultations as a waste of GP time. From a patient perspective the decision to consult their GP about a minor ailment may be a rational and evaluated one. The importance of understanding why some patients consult with minor ailments, and allowing them to retain choice in the way they seek advice, should not be underestimated when considering ways of increasing access to health professionals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-164
Number of pages8
JournalPrimary Health Care Research and Development
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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