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At the heart of general practice since 1960

GPs in England left out in the cold over payment for flu vaccination

Continuity of care from a GP who knows you and your family history is a vital feature of general practice that should not be undermined, patients believe.

More than 90 per cent of the 9,849 patients who responded to the Great Pulse Patient Survey said an ongoing relationship with the same family doctor is important or very important.

Three-quarters said it was important they saw a GP they knew and 57 per cent would rather see a particular GP even for simple medical advice rather than any available doctor.

The findings came in the week the Government began its high-profile public consultation to inform a primary care White Paper in the new year.

The White Paper is expected to alter the system of patient registration, open up primary care to more private sector involvement and further fragment care.

A spokesman for the Department of Health confirmed the White Paper 'may well generate proposals for changes to the registration system to open up access to services for people away from home'.

Yet the results of Pulse's survey show this may not be what the majority of patients want. Half of patients aged over 75 said it was very important they saw a GP they knew, a figure almost matched for patients aged 46 to 75.

More than half of all patients said it was very important they saw the same GP. This rose to 59 per cent among patients aged 46 to 65.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chair of the GPC, said it was vital the 'core values of general practice' were maintained in order to protect continuity. He said: 'It's difficult to see how a fragmented primary care service could offer continuity.'

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the GPC primary care development subcommittee, added: 'We know continuity provides better outcomes and is more cost-effective.'

Patients representatives also questioned whether the Government realised the high value people placed on continuity of care.

Michael Summers, chair of the Patients Association, said: 'Family history has a part to play in the way patients are treated.

'Continuity of care is often more important than some people realise.'

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