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Patients who are able to see the same GP have lower death risk, study finds

Policy makers should prioritise GP continuity of care to reduce patient mortality, researchers have said.

Death rates were significantly lower when patients were able to consistently see the same GP over time, the study concluded.

The review, conducted by researchers from St Leonard’s practice in Exeter and the University of Exeter medical school, looked at continuity of care in both primary and secondary care settings. It included 22 separate studies investigating continuity of care that reported all-cause mortality rates in the study cohorts.

The researchers found that over 80% of the included studies reported a significant association between continuity of care and lower mortality. And they noted that the studies were carried out across nine different countries, suggesting that the benefits of continuity of care apply across cultures.

They said in the paper: ‘The policy implication, as many studies noted, is prioritising continuity of care. For 200 years, medical advances have been mainly technical and impersonal which has reduced attention to the human side of medicine.

‘This systematic review reveals that despite numerous technical advances, continuity of care is an important feature of medical practice, and potentially a matter of life and death.’

The findings come as continuity of care has been in severe decline recently, with data showing that the number of patients who were able to see their preferred GP fell by almost a third between 2012 and 2017.

A study published in the BJGP earlier this month found that patients value the quality of attention and communication that they receive from their GP over extended access. 

Another recent study found that emergency admissions to hospital reduce when older patients see a ‘regular GP’

And GP experts have previously urged the Government to rethink its policy of extending GP opening, which is more likely to mean seeing a different GP, as it is unlikely to reduce A&E attendances.

BMJ Open 2018; available online 29th June

Readers' comments (9)

  • Doctor McDoctor Face

    Well I never, who would have thunk that.

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  • Vinci Ho

    Ha ha ha
    My ma is a woman!
    Who said continuity of care cannot be measured ?
    Auntie May , Agent Hunt and Harvey Dent (as well as Uncle Corbyn) , you need us more than we need you .

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  • It is good to see good quality research backing up what has been known for many years - continuity of care - is best for patient outcomes and is what patients value the most too.

    This however is not what the policy makers in the NHS have made a priority. In their blind drive to create super-surgeries and larger hub based care in General practice they are neglecting good quality care goals - which can be best served by patients seeing their same GP; The more complex the patient with multi-morbidities the more important this model of care is.

    I feel it is time policy makers took note of these findings and support practices which have made this a priority.

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  • Vinci Ho

    ‘The policy implication, as many studies noted, is prioritising continuity of care. For 200 years, medical advances have been mainly technical and impersonal which has reduced attention to the human side of medicine‘
    Bring it on , AI-smartphone-GP apps

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  • yet more inconvenient evidence.

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  • AlanAlmond

    So why is NHS policy designed to destroy continuity of care?
    How does 24/7 access in super massive clinics provide continuity of care?
    How do instant access on line consultations provide continuity of care?
    How does fragmenting care delivery over multiple members of a multidisciplinary team provide continuity of care?
    How does getting paramedics to prescribe and do home visits provide continuity of care?
    How does getting pharmacists to do drug reviews provide continuity of care?
    Almost every recent ‘innovation’ pushed dogmatically by government and NHS England over the last several years seems purposely set up to remove continuity of care.
    Why is evidence like this just flatly ignored?
    Why do we get investment in anything and everything that removes continuity at the expense of routine, core service provision?
    The NHS is in a mess purely because of the way it is administrated. The people who administrate need to take a long hard look at what they are doing and accept responsibility for their total incompetence.
    Yet who gets the blame? Clinicians.
    What is the response?
    Suffocating regulation and things like pilots to clamp down on GP prescribing.
    Always the wrong solutions to glaringly obvious and fixable problems.
    Invest in core services. Forget the gimmicks and back of a fag packet smart ideas from people with no training in primary care.
    Invest in core service provision provided by GPs
    It’s obvious.
    Why the institutionalised willfull blindness?

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  • Well said Utterfool.
    So can we have a comment from Tony Blair, Lord Darzi, Simon Stephens, and all the other authors of our present misfortunes. This confirms what countless patient surveys and most GPs have known for years.
    So can we please split up large practices, let nurses do nursing, end the seven day nonsense, QOF, CQC, CCGs, GMC.
    Would it work? Just look at the Netherlands, Denmark, New Zealand etc etc.

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  • Whereas GPs who see the same patients all the time ...

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  • Irrespective of this report, we will sadly see the continuity of don’t care from the current administration.

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