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Patients prefer women GPs

Patients feel women GPs and younger doctors have better technical and communication skills and are more empathetic, GP-led research concludes.

Patients were also found to be more likely to have faith in the advice of younger GPs and female GPs, to choose them for physical examinations and to comply with the treatment they offered.

Dr Reena Shah, a GP in Hanwell, London, showed 300 patients in six practices photo-graphs of white and Asian GPs of different age and gender. Patients were asked about the expected behaviour of the GP, how they thought they themselves would behave and how at ease they would feel with the GP.

Only one significant difference was found in responses between Asian and white doctors, with the Asian doctor seen as more likely to explore emotional aspects of health.

Younger doctors were thought more likely to refer a patient to a specialist. Female doctors were felt more likely to offer complementary therapy and more likely to explore emotional aspects of health and to empower the patient.

Dr Shah said GPs had to 'turn the mirror' on their own behaviour: 'Instead of us looking at patient difference we need to sit up and see which differences within ourselves can also have an impact on the consultation.'

Dr Tony Naczk, a GP in Whitby, said patients may prefer younger GPs because they believed they were more likely to refer them.

He said: 'My experience of less experienced doctors on the whole is they refer more and patients of course love being referred because it makes them feel their case is being taken seriously, whereas a more experienced doctor might not need to do that.'

The research was published in Patient Education and Counselling journal.

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