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What are the characteristics of general practitioners who routinely do not return postal questionnaires: a cross sectional study
  1. Nigel Stocksa,
  2. David Gunnellb
  1. aDivision of Primary Care, Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Bristol, Canynge Hall, Whiteladies Road, Bristol BS8 2PR, bDepartment of Social Medicine, University of Bristol
  1. Dr Stocks (N.P.Stocks{at}

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Postal surveys have been used for many years by researchers to obtain information about the attitudes, knowledge and self reported behaviour of general practitioners. It is widely believed that poor response rates undermine the validity of survey research,1 2 but only a few studies have tackled the methodological problem of whether a low response rate matters.3

Non-responders to general practitioner postal surveys have been characterised, as being older, isolated and less well qualified,4 however these results relate to individual questionnaires and univariable analyses. To the best of our knowledge no studies have examined the characteristics of GPs who routinely do not return postal questionnaires. These GPs could form an identifiable and sizable proportion of general practice and may be an important source of non-response bias.

Methods and Results

We identified five postal questionnaires sent to GP principals in Avon …

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  • Funding: this study was supported by a grant from the South and West Research and Development Directorate.

  • Conflicts of interest: none.