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EuropePMC; 2021.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-306994


Background: Safety netting in primary care is considered an important intervention for managing diagnostic uncertainty. This is the first study to examine how patients understand and interpret safety netting advice around low-risk potential lung cancer symptoms, and how this affects reconsultation behaviours. Methods Qualitative dyadic interview study in UK primary care. Pre-covid-19, five patients were interviewed face-to-face twice (shortly after a primary care consultation for potential lung cancer symptom(s) and 2–5 months later). The general practitioner (GP) they last saw was interviewed face-to-face once. During the covid-19 pandemic, an additional 15 patients were interviewed once via telephone. Audio-recorded interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using a mix of inductive and deductive thematic analysis. Results The findings from our thematic analysis suggest that patients prefer active safety, as part of thorough and logical diagnostic uncertainty management. Passive safety netting may be perceived as dismissive and cause delayed reconsultation. GP safety netting strategies are not always understood, potentially causing patient worry and dissatisfaction. Telephone consultations and the diagnostic overshadowing of COVID-19 on respiratory symptoms impacted GPs’ safety netting strategies and patients’ appetite for active follow up measures. Conclusions Safety netting guidelines do not yet offer solutions that have been proven to promote symptom vigilance and timely reconsultation for low-risk lung cancer symptoms. Patients prefer active safety netting coupled with thorough consultation techniques and a comprehensible diagnostic strategy, and may respond adversely to passive safety netting advice.