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Polyclinics will harm patients' trust in GPs, study concludes

By Steve Nowottny

Polyclinics staffed by large numbers of doctors will undermine patients' confidence in their GP, according to a detailed study published this week.

Researchers at the University of Leicester found that patients experiencing decreased continuity of care were likely to show reduced trust and cooperation with their GP as a result.

Dr Carolyn Tarrant, the University of Leicester researcher who led the study, said: ‘The Government is setting up numerous polyclinics, super-surgeries and walk-in centres all over the country.'

‘I'm sure they will have various benefits for patients and GPs, but they are bound to reduce continuity of care, and our research shows this may lead to a decline in patient trust. If patient trust declines, then medical outcomes may be adversely affected.'

Researchers surveyed a random sample of 279 patients from three GP practices in Leicestershire, and also interviewed a sub-sample for 20 patients and 12 GPs. Patients' judgements of the GPs' interpersonal care, past experience of cooperation and expectation of continuing care from the same GP were listed as ‘independent predictors of patient trust.'

The study's authors said their findings were in line with predictions from behavioural game theory, whereby experiences of past cooperation and expectations of future cooperation, known as ‘shadow of the future', are linked to trust in continuing relationships.

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