Doctors' perspectives on PSA testing illuminate established differences in prostate cancer screening rates between Australia and the UK: a qualitative study

Kristen Pickles, Stacy M Carter, Lucie Rychetnik, Vikki A Entwistle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVES: To examine how general practitioners (GPs) in the UK and GPs in Australia explain their prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing practices and to illuminate how these explanations are similar and how they are different.

DESIGN: A grounded theory study.

SETTING: Primary care practices in Australia and the UK.

PARTICIPANTS: 69 GPs in Australia (n=40) and the UK (n=29). We included GPs of varying ages, sex, clinical experience and patient populations. All GPs interested in participating in the study were included.

RESULTS: GPs' accounts revealed fundamental differences in whether and how prostate cancer screening occurred in their practice and in the broader context within which they operate. The history of prostate screening policy, organisational structures and funding models appeared to drive more prostate screening in Australia and less in the UK. In Australia, screening processes and decisions were mostly at the discretion of individual clinicians, and varied considerably, whereas the accounts of UK GPs clearly reflected a consistent, organisationally embedded approach based on local evidence-based recommendations to discourage screening.

CONCLUSIONS: The GP accounts suggested that healthcare systems, including historical and current organisational and funding structures and rules, collectively contribute to how and why clinicians use the PSA test and play a significant role in creating the mindlines that GPs employ in their clinic. Australia's recently released consensus guidelines may support more streamlined and consistent care. However, if GP mindlines and thus routine practice in Australia are to shift, to ultimately reduce unnecessary or harmful prostate screening, it is likely that other important drivers at all levels of the screening process will need to be addressed.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere011932
Number of pages12
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number12
Early online date5 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 5 Dec 2016

Bibliographical note

The project was funded by NHMRC grant number 1023197. SC was
supported by NHMRC Career Development Fellowship number 1032963 when
this work was completed.

Published by the BMJ Publishing Group Limited. For permission to use (where not already granted under a licence) please go to


  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Australia
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Family Practice
  • Female
  • General Practitioners
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Primary Health Care
  • Prostate
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen
  • Prostatic Neoplasms/diagnosis
  • Qualitative Research
  • United Kingdom
  • Unnecessary Procedures


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