Introduction When General Practitioners (GPs) refer patients with headache to neurologists, it is often because the patient and/or doctor want imaging. Some GPs now access Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) directly. We aimed to describe patients’ experience of GPs using direct access, compared to patients who saw a specialist first.
Methods We invited participants to semi-structured Interviews about two months after imaging. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and analysed using thematic analysis in Nvivo.
Results We interviewed 10 patients from each pathway in South London, eleven women, median age 41, range 20–72. We found more similarities than differences between groups. Ten said they received a clear scan result explanation, while six had difficulty understanding results. Eleven participants felt relief once results were received, while five still wanted an answer on the underlying cause for symptoms. Seven felt the specialist appointment wait time was long. Those using the direct-access pathway were more likely to report MRI results delay.
Conclusion Patient reassurance was linked closely with results receipt and worry linked with wait times. Some felt MRI results did not provide sufficient explanation for symptoms. Improvement in both pathways can be achieved, providing results are delivered in a clear, timely manner.
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