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Objective: We aimed to explore how patients with long-term conditions choose between available healthcare options during a health crisis. Methods: Patients in North-West England with one or more of four long-term conditions were invited to take part in a questionnaire cohort study of healthcare use. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a sub-sample of fifty consenting patie nts. Data were analysed qualitatively, using a framework approach. Results: Patients described using emergency care only in response to perceived urgent need. Their judgements about urgency of need, and their choices about what services to use were guided by previous experiences of care, particularly how accessible services were and the perceived expertise of practitioners. Conclusion: Recursivity and candidacy provide a framework for understanding patient decision-making around emergency care use. Patients were knowledgeable and discriminating users of services, drawing on experiential knowledge of healthcare to choose between services. Their sense of 'candidacy' for specific emergency care services, was recursively shaped by previous experiences. Practice implications: Strategies that emphasise the need to educate patients about healthcare services use alone are unlikely to change care-seeking behaviour. Practitioners need to modify care experiences that recursively shape patients' judgements of candidacy and their perceptions of accessible expertise in alternative services. © 2013 The Authors.

Original publication




Journal article


Patient Education and Counseling

Publication Date





335 - 341