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Relationship with GP most important to patients

21 June 2018 08:32

How well doctors listened to patients and their ability to clearly explain treatments were most important

How well doctors listened to patients and their ability to clearly explain treatments were most important

Patients value their relationship with a GP more importantly than surgery opening times, according to new research.

The study showed that the overall quality of experience that patients enjoyed at GP surgeries was most strongly associated with the interpersonal aspects of primary care.

Factors like how well doctors listened to patients and their ability to clearly explain treatments were most important, according to the research published in the British Journal of General Practice.

The authors of the paper warned that while video and telephone consultations may improve access to GPs, the changes could have the "unintended consequence" of affecting the quality of the doctor-patient relationship.

They also said improving opening times and making it easier to get an appointment would not necessarily result in "large improvements" in patient satisfaction.

The researchers, using data from the General Practice Patient Survey, analysed responses from 2.9 million patients from more than 8,000 UK practices between 2011 and 2014.

Quality of care

Patients' overall experience of GP surgeries most strongly correlated with the interpersonal quality of care provided by doctors, they found.

This included how much time GPs gave to patients and how much they involved them in decisions, as well as how well they listened and explained tests.

A patient's experience of making appointments and satisfaction with opening hours was only "modestly associated" with their overall experience, according to the research.

The authors, from Imperial College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: "Policymakers should reflect on this finding and consider the contexts of GPs' work that affect interactions with patients.

"For example, a large workload could affect whether GPs can give each patient enough time at consultation."

They added: "Some interventions being promoted to improve access to general practice, such as telephone and video consultations, change the GP-patient interaction substantially - an unintended consequence could be reduced interpersonal quality of care."

Lowest level

The results of the latest British Social Attitudes survey revealed only 65% of people in England, Scotland and Wales were satisfied with GP services - the lowest level since records began in 1983.

NHS England committed to ensuring everyone has access to weekend and evening routine GP appointments by 2020.

However, the authors said: "It is suggested that policymakers should not assume that recent national policies focused on access to general practice will translate into large improvements in patients' overall experiences, even if they do actually improve access."

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