Patients' experiences of primary healthcare and dermatology provision for alopecia


Background Alopecia describes a group of dermatological conditions characterised by hair loss, which are either non-scarring or scarring in nature, and range from bald patches to complete body hair loss, to general thinning. In the UK, the General Practitioner (GP) is typically the first point of contact, and some patients are referred for specialist dermatology consultation. However, little is known about how individuals with alopecia in the UK experience the care provided by the National Health Service.
Objectives We aimed to understand patients’ perceptions of primary healthcare and dermatology provision. Further, we aimed to investigate how care provision and patients’ overall patient journey might be improved in the UK, and how these lessons may apply internationally.
Methods An online mixed methods survey was distributed by Alopecia UK to UK-based individuals with alopecia. Open-ended text responses were analysed using qualitative content analysis. Quantitative data were analysed using descriptive analyses and dependent measures t-tests.
Results A total of 291 participants completed the survey. They reported neutral-to-partial dissatisfaction with their GP appointments, with greater satisfaction in their most recent compared to their first appointment. Participants highlighted positive experiences with GPs and dermatologists as well as areas for improvement. Participants also expressed a desire for a greater degree of support and understanding about the psychological impact of alopecia.
Conclusions Results highlight the importance of being empathic and caring healthcare professionals for patients with alopecia, the need for training for GPs on alopecia, as well as a simplified and joined up pathway between primary and secondary healthcare.

Skin Health & Disease
Marije van Dalen
Marije van Dalen
Postdoctoral Researcher

My research interests include the mental health and well-being of adolescents with a chronic illness.