Patients do not fully disclose symptoms during many consultations in UK primary care, new research reveals.

Researchers from Keele University asked 190 patients aged between 49 and 93 years (average 68 years) to complete a questionnaire about their agenda for the consultation, current symptoms, and which symptoms they intended to discuss with their GP. Researchers video-recorded the consultations to compare the patient’s agenda and intentions with the topics discussed.

Most patients (81.8 per cent) said that they intended to discuss at least one symptom but, in 22.6 per cent of these consultations, the problem remained undisclosed. A total of 67 symptoms remained undisclosed during these 43 consultations. Patients were most likely to withhold information about tiredness, sleeping difficulty and joint pain.

On the other hand, patients discussed a problem in 25.2 per cent of consultations that, based on the questionnaire, they had not intended to raise with the GP. Joint pain, skin lesions and stress were the most commonly raised symptoms. In 13.6 per cent of consultations, patients raised a symptom not previously identified in the questionnaire.

The authors note that “non-disclosure is undoubtedly complex, influenced by multiple factors and not always necessarily a bad thing”. However, “understanding how symptoms are best explained and managed in the population could improve the efficiency of primary care”. Further research should evaluate the conseq-uences of non-disclosure, they say.

Fam Pract doi:10.1093/fampra/cmy023



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