Qualitative study evaluating the expectations and experiences of Dutch parents of children with chronic gastrointestinal symptoms visiting their general practitioner

Sophie M Ansems*, Ilse N Ganzevoort, Donald G van Tol, Tryntsje Fokkema, Marijke Olthof, Marjolein Y Berger, Gea A Holtman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
37 Downloads (Pure)


OBJECTIVES: Chronic gastrointestinal symptoms are common among children and affect their daily activities and quality of life. The majority will be diagnosed with a functional gastrointestinal disorder. Effective reassurance and education are, therefore, key components of the physician's management. Qualitative studies have shown how parents and children experience specialist paediatric care, yet less is known about general practitioners (GPs), who manage most cases in the Netherlands and have a more personal and enduring relationship with their patients. Therefore, this study evaluates the expectations and experiences of parents of children visiting a GP for chronic gastrointestinal symptoms.

DESIGN: We conducted a qualitative interview study. Online interviews were audio and video recorded, transcribed verbatim and independently analysed by the first two authors. Data were collected and analysed concurrently until data saturation was reached. Using thematic analysis, we developed a conceptual framework reflecting respondent expectations and experiences. We performed a member check of the interview synopsis and the conceptual framework.

SETTING: Dutch primary care.

PARTICIPANTS: We purposively sampled participants from a randomised controlled trial evaluating the effectiveness of faecal calprotectin testing in children with chronic gastrointestinal complaints in primary care. Thirteen parents and two children participated.

RESULTS: Three key themes emerged: disease burden, GP-patient relationship and reassurance. Often, the experienced disease burden and the pre-existing GP-patient relationship influenced expectations (eg, for further investigations or a sympathetic ear), and when a GP fulfilled these expectations, a trusting GP-patient relationship ensued that facilitated reassurance. We found that individual needs influenced these themes and their interrelationships.

CONCLUSION: Insights provided by this framework could help GPs managing children with chronic gastrointestinal symptoms in daily practice and may therewith improve the consultation experience for parents. Further research should evaluate whether this framework also holds true for children.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere069429
Number of pages10
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 16-May-2023


  • Humans
  • Child
  • General Practitioners
  • Motivation
  • Quality of Life
  • Parents
  • Qualitative Research
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases/diagnosis


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