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GPs attack 'patronising' accusation

GPs have attacked a Department of Health report which says they patronise patients and frequently make them feel stupid and guilty for taking up their time.

The results of a series of interviews with patients found many lost confidence and became frustrated because they felt unable to ask their GP questions or have their diagnosis explained.

The findings came in a Department of Health consultation designed to draw up a draft statement that 'encapsulates how patients would like to experience the NHS on an emotional basis'.

Although the report cites examples of good experiences of the NHS, it said attitudes to primary care were 'very mixed'. Many patients called for a return to a 'family doctor' service that embodied traditional values.

GPs said the findings did not reflect most patients' experience.

GPC deputy chair Dr Hamish Meldrum added it was 'slightly aggravating' that the public harked back to the Dr Finlay era. 'The idea that everyone was looked after in this wonderful way is a nonsense. It was not scientifically based and care standards have moved forwards,' he said.

Dr Grant Ingrams, medical secretary of West Midlands LMCs, said patients' emotional needs should be met by NHS-employed counsellors while the GP shortage continued.

'I would like to have the time but it's not appropriate for GPs to spend a large proportion of their time providing emotional support as medicine has become so much more complex,' he said.

The report found patients with bad experiences had often not seen their usual GP and felt this undermined their trust in the doctor's diagnosis.

Others felt let down, ignored and not taken seriously.

Dr Michael Greco, director of the client-focused evaluation programme at the University of Exeter, said most GPs thought they were good communicators but many, particularly older GPs, were not.

'A proportion haven't quite grasped the interpersonal competencies,' he said.

By Ian Cameron

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