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Patients tell Hewitt: hands off our GPs

The results of the Great Pulse Patient Survey have delivered an unequivocal warning to ministers not to destroy the core values of general practice.

Responses from almost 10,000 people show patients believe continuity of care is vital and that they support GPs in their battle against fragmentation of services.

The vast majority of patients also praised GPs' ability to deliver rapid access according to need as well as high-quality care.

The results come as the Government embarks this week on a high-profile consultation with patients on wholesale changes to primary care.

A White Paper early in the new year is expected to propose amendments to GP registration rules and access arrangements as well as usher in more private providers.

Yet the Pulse survey results show changes that fragment care are at odds with what people really want.

Nine out of 10 patients said it was important or very important to them that they continue to seen by the same GP. An equal number believed it was vital to be seen by a GP who knew both them and their family history.

And people overwhelmingly preferred to visit their GP for treatment or medical advice than to visit a walk-in centre or ring NHS Direct.

Dr Mayur Lakhani, chair of the RCGP, said he hoped the Government would listen to the results as part of its consultation on primary care.

He said: 'These are very positive results and they confirm what we know to be instinctively true ­ patients appreciate personal doctoring.'

Pulse joined forces with Newcastle and North Tyneside LMC to launch the survey.

Its secretary, Dr George Rae, said future Government policies must be measured against the effect they had on continuity of care.

He said: 'The findings send an immensely powerful message to politicians. Patients do value the place of their GP as the central co-ordinator of their ongoing care.'

Professor Allyson Pollock, chair of health policy and health services research at University College London, said patients were unaware of how the Government's plans would upset what they held dear about general practice.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said general practice had to change.

He said patients wanted 'a positive experience; high-quality care, which is consistently accessible, convenient to them and meets their needs.'

He added: 'Great strides have been made here by general practice, but more can and needs to be done.'

What really matters

to patients

·Nine out of 10 say it is important to be looked after by the same GP

·Vast majority prefer to see a particular GP than go to a drop-in clinic or see a nurse

·Two-thirds can get urgent GP appointment within six hours

·Three-quarters can see a particular GP in a reasonable time

·More want to go to a local hospital than the best or the one with the shortest waiting list

·Two-thirds think quality of GP services has improved

By Rob Finch

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