To what extent do the categorisations of novice and expert contribute to an understanding of the evaluation and communication of service provision in the maternity services
Introduction Measuring consumer expectations and perceptions of service provision is supported by both practitioners and academics. The National Health Service, as a result of policy reforms and structural changes, recognises the role of the patient in health care and is gradually incorporating patient views in policy and practice. This study explores the experience of the patient and its affect on the expectations and perceptions of the service provision. Two hospitals, antenatal and postnatal groups were utilised to ascertain the views and experiences of pregnant and recently delivered women. Methodology Focus groups were held with women who had delivered, since the implementation of the Patient's Charter, to establish the expectations of the women using the service provision. Issues of priority to these women and the perception of their overall service experience were also considered. In-depth interviews were then conducted with pregnant women to identify expectations of their forthcoming delivery and subsequent in-depth interviews were conducted with the same women once they had delivered their children. This was to evaluate their perceptions and compare them with their initial expectations. Finally, key themes and recurrent ideas were tested, using hypotheses developed after the qualitative research. The questionnaire approach was to substantiate or discount the findings of the first two stages of the research. Dissemination Familiar service quality attributes were recognisable from the analysis of the comments. Although there were issues on which women agreed unanimously, many elements of the service provision were viewed differently by women with experience and women from varying categories of residential area. The results also demonstrated that the use and dependence of referent groups varied between the women and that this was imperative for communication. Statistically, the use of referent groups, substantiated through the questionnaire analysis, provided significant results to support the initial findings. Contribution Using the information from the qualitative research, a Maternity User's Matrix was developed identifying key characteristics of users' of this service provision. The significant results from the quantitative research were used to develop an existing consumer behaviour model. Using expectations, levels of satisfaction and perceptions of consumers, this research has implications for service provision, health practice, future research and service itself.