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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Ministers demand GP contract change

The Great Pulse Patient Survey

took on

huge sign

ificance as the Government this week begins a high-profile public consultation on an overhaul of primary care ­ Rob Finch reports

Practices are running flexible appointment systems that give the vast majority of patients same-day access for urgent treatment, usually to a GP of their choice.

The results of the Great Pulse Patient Survey show 62 per cent of patients are able to get an urgent GP appointment within six hours.

More than three-quarters are able to get their urgent appointment by the next day.

Most significantly, 76 per cent of almost 10,000 patients questioned said they are able to get an appointment with a GP of their choice within a 'reasonable' period of time.

The high levels of patient satisfaction with the access provided by practices come amid a renewed furore over the 48-hour access target.

Ministers have promised a shake-up of checks on GPs after Government figures were found not to tally with patients' experiences.

Commenting on Pulse's patient survey, GPs and academics said the current target was too blunt and failed to take into account the flexibility most practices offered.

Professor Greg Rubin, professor of primary care at the University of Sunderland, said his own research to be published later this year mirrored the Pulse survey findings.

He said: 'While getting to see your doctor quickly is important to patients it's not the most important issue.'

Professor Chris Ham, former director of the Department of Health's strategy unit, said the Government needed to shift its focus away from access and towards the patient's experience as a whole.

He said: 'In the next iteration of QOF we need to give much more emphasis to the patient's experience.'

Dr Peter Godbehere, GP associate of the National Primary Care Development Team, which rolled out the advanced access system, also called for a change to the access target.

Dr Godbehere, a GP

in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, said: 'I would personally rather patients have appointments when they wish.'

A spokesman for the Department of Health said the 48-hour access target would remain.

He said: 'The target has ­ by any measure ­ led to patients being able to see a GP more quickly.'

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