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Independents' Day

UK GPs are good listeners, study reveals

GPs in the UK defy the ’12-second interruption’ myth by listening to patients’ complaints for longer, an audit published in the BMJ has revealed.

Rather than the 12 seconds often quoted, the audit found that experienced doctors in Britain wait an average of 51 seconds before interrupting their patient.

The study says that Simon Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive, claimed at an RCGP conference in 2014 that doctors have been known to interrupt patients within 12 seconds.

But the BMJ report, published today, states that the 12-second interruption in fact applied to doctors in the US, not in the UK.

There is, however, a ‘strong training effect’ as British GPs in their first two years of training are quicker to interrupt patients – after an average of 36 seconds.

According to the report, benefits of listening to patients include avoiding errors in diagnosis, ensuring consultations are complete and preventing ’late arising complaints’.

Dr Avril Danczak, a GP and primary care medical educator in Manchester who led the audit, praised the approach of the GPs analysed.

She said: ‘These British GPs hardly interrupted at all, and they mostly allowed their patients to complete their opening statements, which usually took less than a minute. This is likely to improve the accuracy and effectiveness of their consultations.’

The audit reports that even if doctors wait longer before interrupting patients, the consultation will not necessarily be longer overall.


Readers' comments (10)

  • You couldn't make this up.....someone sitting there with a stopwatch...make a good sketch sooner or later

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  • But a computer algorithm won't interrupt you at all, and we are all going to be replaced by computers in 20 years anyway, aren't we?

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  • But Steve field says we are a failed profession!

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  • WOW!

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  • To be fair, its about the only thing NICE has yet got round to stopping us from using treat patients.
    I'm sure there's a technical appraisal waiting to be had informing us the inherent dangers to patients from excessive GP 'audiological attentiveness'. I'd venture dramatically increased rates of physician induced laryngitis are revealed as patients are left to drone on and on about 'every problem' without interruption from their perfectly patiently-centred, ICE concerned doc?

    Blame the trainers!!!

    Disgruntled GP Partner (3yrs)

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  • Not surprising. The British GP has to listen to so much nonsense from all sides that he in utter resignation he/she doesn't see sense in even venturing an interruption.

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  • Vinci Ho

    So Harvey Dent could not put aside his 'baggages' from the previous job in US! He thought GPs were just GPs, all the same anywhere in the world!

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  • Thank pulse for the good news.... in all this doom and gloom in our somehow beloved NHS. I have seen more than 30 coughs and cold today. I listen to all .. my printer had a rest.. i.e no amoxicillin. Will BBC and the daily mail educate our patients that the NHS IS NOT FREE.. but.. wait that will not sell papers will it.

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  • Sad that this is what counts as good news compared to the slander of recent days.

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  • 'Never interrupt internal search' - The inner consultation from Roger Neighbour.
    Something I learned during my vocational training 1989 - 1992 leading up to MRCGP. When being a GP really was a vocation, and consultation technique meant something.
    Now in stark contrast I feel systematically abused by the likes of Jeremy Hunt and Steven Field, with no leadership, no mentors, no one to look up to and admire, no one to follow - that is truly sad.
    Just idiots and cardigans peddling skype.
    Whatever the hell happened to this once great vocation.

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