Acute Coronary Syndrome (ACS) is common and associated with high mortality. Effective treatments are available but require prompt administration. Studies have consistently demonstrated that delays to treatment are common, with patient decision time accounting for most delay. Interventions aimed at reducing delay have had little success.
Evidence suggests that psychological factors, in particular illness representations (Leventhalâ€™s Commonsense Model of Self-Regulation (CS-SRM)) might be important in relation to patient decision time. This thesis describes a two-stage investigation, undertaken within NHS 24, exploring the content and timing of peopleâ€™s initial presentations with possible symptoms of ACS.
The first stage comprised a CS-SRM-guided content analysis of peoplesâ€™ initial symptom presentations. The second stage utilised the Illness Perception Questionnaire-revised (IPQ-R) to explore how illness representations relate to patient decision time.
Results show that the components of illness representations accounted for 95% of participantsâ€™ initial presentations. The components most related to behaviour and outcome were volunteered least (cause, consequences, cure/control and coherence). Decision time for most participants (89%) was out-with the ideal and appraisal time accounted for most of the delay.
Appraisal delay was shorter for those with fewer symptoms and high emotion. Illness delay was longer where the person making the call reported high treatment control.
Interventions may need to raise awareness of the range of possible presentations and of the consequences associated with delay. Interventions should also provide guidance as to an appropriate time-limit for self-care. Individuals may benefit from being informed about how to respond to strong emotional responses. Interventions aimed at bystanders may need to differ from those for patients. People at high risk of ACS should be informed about how and when to access healthcare out-of-hours.