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Postponing a General Practitioner Visit: Describing Social Differences in Thirty-One European Countries

Objective: To describe social differences in postponing a general practitioner visit in 31 European countries and to explore whether primary care strength is associated with postponement rates.

Data Sources: Between October 2011 and December 2013, the multicountry QUALICOPC study collected data on 61,931 patients and 7,183 general practitioners throughout Europe.

Study Design: Access to primary care was measured by asking the patients whether they postponed a general practitioner visit in the past year. Social differences were described according to patients’ self-rated household income, education, ethnicity, and gender.

Data Collection/Extraction Methods: Data were analyzed using multivariable and multilevel binomial logistic regression analyses.

Principal Findings: According to the variance–decomposition in the multilevel analysis, most of the variance can be explained by patient characteristics. Postponement of general practitioner care is higher for patients with a low self-rated household income, a low education level, and a migration background. In addition, although the point estimates are consistent with a substantial effect, no statistically significant association between primary care strength and postponement in the 31 countries is determined.

Conclusions: Despite the universal and egalitarian goals of health care systems, access to general practitioner care in Europe is still determined by patients’ socioeconomic status (self-rated household income and education) and migration background.

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