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The Government is ignoring what patients really want from the NHS by pursuing its drive to increase choice, two separate reports conclude.

Consumer watchdog Which? said ministers' belief that choice would lead to better services was 'misguided'.

Its report added that patients' views were not being taken into account and cited its survey of 1,744 people earlier this year which found 85 per cent would rather have access to good local services than greater choice.

A report from the National Primary Care Research and Development Centre also found patients valued continuity of care most highly, and warned this should not be lost amid changes to the NHS.

The findings are the latest to indicate that patients do not place a high value on having more choice.

Frances Blunden, principal policy adviser at Which?, accused the Government of 'missing the point on what patients want from the NHS'.

'They have got it wrong in a number of ways. They are not offering the right sort of choice and they have also got it wrong in the belief that practice-based commissioning and choice will drive up standards. Patients do not want choice for its own sake.'

The Government's failure to address the role of GPs in the choice agenda meant that patients would end up 'relying heavily on GPs to make choices for them' because they did not have adequate information, Ms Blunden added.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, GPC chair, said the findings confirmed what GPs had been saying all along. He said: 'There are some basic principles that patients want to hold onto ­ high quality care and a relationship with their GP.'

The report from the National Primary Care Research and Development Centre in Manchester said patients did not trust practice league tables and agreed with GPs that longer consultations were needed to improve quality. It concluded: 'Patients more than anything value a high standard of inter-personal care. It is important this is not lost.'

By Emma Wilkinson

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