A mixed methods investigation of parental factors in non-attendance at general paediatric hospital outpatient appointments

  • Elaine Cameron

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Non-attendance at paediatric outpatient appointments results in delayed diagnosis and treatment, putting children at risk of avoidable ill health, and incurring considerable health service costs. Links between missed appointments and clinical, socio-demographic, and access-related factors have been indicated, but parental cognitions associated with non-attendance have yet to be investigated. The aims of this project were to evaluate the effectiveness and theoretical bases of existing interventions designed to reduce non-attendance; to consider the ways in which missed appointments are managed by healthcare providers; to explore parents’ beliefs and experiences of attending and missing appointments; and to investigate the factors underlying these beliefs. A systematic literature review focusing on non-attendance interventions was conducted Within a mixed methods framework, interviews were conducted with healthcare professionals, subsequent interviews were conducted with parents who had attended or missed a General Paediatric outpatient appointment, and a cross-sectional questionnaire study of parents’ beliefs was implemented. The systematic review revealed that text message appointment reminders are effective at reducing non-attendance rates, but that no interventions have thus far been developed using theories of behaviour. Healthcare professionals recognised both barriers and parents’ beliefs as influences on attendance, but also believed there were ‘types’ of families who miss appointments. Healthcare professionals disagreed somewhat about how non-attendance should best be managed. The parent interview study found six themes. The findings reflect parents’ perceptions about the importance of attending and of their ability to attend. The results of the questionnaire study corroborate this structure of beliefs as the analysis produced two factors, the perceived ‘worth’ of attending and anticipated ‘worry’ when attending. This thesis demonstrates an original approach to investigating non-attendance at children’s outpatient appointments, using mixed methods and adopting a psychological rather than service-use perspective. The findings contribute to Health Psychology theory and offer recommendations for healthcare providers.
Date of Award12 Jan 2015
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorHelen M Pattison (Supervisor) & Carole Cummins (Supervisor)


  • paediatrics
  • outpatient services
  • mixed methods
  • parental health beliefs

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