Do you find yourself having to re explain your medical history or ongoing symptoms every time you visit your GP? Or, that your GP never looks familiar? You’re not alone!
The number of patients in England who said they were able to get an appointment with their family doctor fell by 27.5% between 2012 and 2017. Does this matter? According to a recent study, it does. Seeing the same doctor (GP and specialists) over a number of years may be a matter of life and death.
The University of Exeter Medical School carried out an analysis of over 1.4 million patients from countries such as the UK, the US, France and the Netherlands. The findings revealed patients were more likely to die if they saw different doctors for each appointment.
In comparison, individuals who see the same GP when they go to the surgery are more likely to have an ailment diagnosed early, take prescribed medications and access services to prevent ill-health.
But surely, in circumstances where you are seeing a second GP for the same ailment, you are gaining a second opinion? Not according to research, which attributed ‘continuity of care’ as an important but often neglected aspect of patient healthcare.
Prof Philip Evans, from the University of Exeter Medical School, explained: "Continuity of care happens when a patient and a doctor see each other repeatedly and get to know each other. This leads to better communication, patient satisfaction, adherence to medical advice and much lower use of hospital services."
However, the decline in patient continuity of care looks set to continue, with senior GPs commenting that they are unable to offer patients continuity of care as their surgeries are understaffed and struggling to cope with the demand. Increasing numbers of family doctors are also choosing to work part-time – particularly millennials – and the gaps are being filled by locums.
Last month, a study by the University of Leicester found that just half of patients had a preferred GP – and only half of them were able to see that doctor for most of their appointments.
Julie Crossley, a medical injury lawyer at Ashtons Legal, comments: “The stark evidence will be alarming for many and serves to draw attention to the consequences of a grappling NHS on patient healthcare. With what some have been saying for years now backed by unequivocal research, the question is, is it right we continue to play devil’s advocate with our health as a direct consequence of NHS underfunding?”
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