Objectives To ascertain attitudes to consultations in general practice and the gender of the doctor. To determine whether women participate in the National Health Service (NHS) screening programmes available to them and their use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Design Postal questionnaire survey to women aged 56-59 years.
Setting The Honiton Group Practice, East Devon, UK.
Participants Two hundred and ninety-four of the 334 eligible women returned the questionnaire (response rate 88%).
Main outcome measures Women's embarrassment on consulting general practitioners (GPs) and preference for a female doctor. Up-to-date cervical smears and mammography screening in eligible women and use of HRT.
Results A large majority of women (248/294; 84.4%) were not embarrassed when consulting a GP and did not express a preference to see a woman GP for any problem (240/294; 81.6%). However 123/294 (41.8%) did express a preference to see a woman doctor for 'women's problems'. Sixty-five women had had a hysterectomy, and 218 of the remaining 229 (95.2%) had had a smear in the past 5 years. For breast screening, 267/294 (90.8%) had undergone mammography in the previous 3 years. Ninety-three women (32%) were currently on HRT, and on record searching a total of 146 (49.7%) had at some time been HRT users.
Conclusions Embarrassment does not appear to be a major problem for consultations related to female health. A well-organised general practice with motivated patients can achieve very high uptakes of both cervical and breast screening programmes. Interest in HRT has also risen, with half the women aged 56-59 years having used systemic HRT.
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